Maryland and Virginia Students Deserve More Choices; Baltimore Schools Lag Behind D.C

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Maryland and Virginia Students Deserve More Choices; Baltimore Schools Lag Behind D.C


Byline: Dan Lips, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Nikia Hammond is a single mother, working hard to provide for her four elementary-school children. She's also on the front lines of a national debate about education reform.

Miss Hammond's children - Zackia, 10; Asia, 8; Ronald, 7; and London, 5 - attended Merritt Elementary School in Northeast Washington last year, where, according to their mother, they weren't being challenged.

That all changed last summer when Miss Hammond's four children were awarded Opportunity Scholarships under the new federally funded school voucher program for D.C.t students. "It was really unbelievable," she recalled. "I was really surprised that I was able to get all these scholarships." Miss Hammond's four children are now enrolled at the nearby Nannie Helen Burroughs Elementary, a private school where she's confident her children will receive a first-rate education. "I want my children to learn things I'm not able to teach them," Miss Hammond explained. "Everything that I didn't have, I want for them. If you don't have education, then you don't have anything."

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship is helping 1,005 children attend private school in the nation's capital. The program, which is funded by Congress, costs approximately $13 million per year. It was designed to provide new opportunities for children in the D.C. school system, which according to national tests ranks near the bottom in national examinations.

Unfortunately, parents in Baltimore have few such options, despite the city school system's persistent crisis. Academically, Baltimore's public-education system fails on a number of measures. The city's high-school graduation rate is barely above 50 percent and students continually lag behind state averages on the Maryland State Assessment reading and math exams. In many cases, the city's schools are dangerous places for students. In 2004, 16 Baltimore schools were placed on probation under provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The consequences of this poor education aren't a matter for debate since they are apparent in the generations that have already passed through the city's substandard public-education system. …

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