Maryland - Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today
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Maryland – Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program

Maryland – Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program

Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program was enacted in 2016, launched in 2016, and began providing vouchers in 2016–17. This school choice program, the state’s first, provides vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools. Learn more about the program’s funding, eligibility, and rules on this page.

Program Fast Facts

  • The nation’s 26th voucher program

  • 2,659 participating students (2017–18)

  • 25 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide

  • 241 participating schools (2017–18)

  • Average voucher value: $2,294 (2017–18)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 16%

Program Details

Percent of Maryland Families with Children Eligible to Participate in the BOOST Program

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program was enacted in 2016, launched in 2016 and began providing vouchers in 2016–17. This school choice program, the state’s first, provides vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools.

Student Funding

Funded by appropriation, each student’s voucher is funded at the statewide average of the per-pupil expenditures by all local education agencies for the current school year, up to but not exceeding the amount of tuition at the private school. In 2017–18, voucher amounts ranged from $1,000 to $4,400 each, and the highest award amount went to students who qualified for the federal free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) program ($31,980 for a family of four in 2017–18) and attended a public school last year. The legislature established the program as a budget item. It appropriated $5.5 million from the general fund to fund vouchers for students as well as awarded rollover funds for the 2017–18 school year. That amount will increase to $8.85 million in 2018–19.

Student Eligibility

Students are eligible if they live in families with incomes up to, but not exceeding, 100 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program ($45,510 for a family of four in 2017–18). For students who are receiving a BOOST voucher for the first time, priority shall be given to students who attended public schools in the prior year. Renewing students who remain income-eligible are entitled to vouchers.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

The Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program provides vouchers for low-income students to attend eligible private schools of choice. Though this is a first step toward educational opportunity for Maryland students, the program has several important shortcomings. As a line-item appropriation, the program increases state aid for education instead of allowing the tax dollars already reserved for a child’s public education to follow them to a private school of choice. The program is subject to reenactment by the current legislature—meaning students are not guaranteed a voucher from year to year. The program’s funding cap limits student participation. Also, private schools of choice must administer the state test, which may limit private school participation and provide a strong incentive for participating schools to narrow their curricula and “teach to the test.”

The program also requires the Maryland Department of Education to “compile and certify” a list of applicants and rank them by eligibility before sending to the BOOST advisory board. Though this was likely intended to provide the most aid to the most disadvantaged students, this policy creates unnecessary invasions of privacy and forces a ranking system for students already eligible for the program. This program includes Maryland’s Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, Title 20 Subtitle 6 of the State Governor Article, which requires private schools eligible for vouchers to not discriminate in student admissions based on race, color, national origin or sexual orientation. Though the program includes a protection for religious liberty, “Nothing herein shall require any school or institution to adopt any rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with its religious or moral teachings,” the effect of this expanded layer of regulatory control is yet to be determined.

 

The program also requires the Maryland Department of Education to “compile and certify” a list of applicants and rank them by eligibility before sending to the BOOST advisory board. Though this was likely intended to provide the most aid to the most disadvantaged students, this policy creates unnecessary invasions of privacy and forces a ranking system for students already eligible for the program. This program includes Maryland’s Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, Title 20 Subtitle 6 of the State Governor Article, which requires private schools eligible for vouchers to not discriminate in student admissions based on race, color, national origin or sexual orientation. Though the program includes a protection for religious liberty, “Nothing herein shall require any school or institution to adopt any rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with its religious or moral teachings,” the effect of this expanded layer of regulatory control is yet to be determined.

The program also requires the Maryland Department of Education to “compile and certify” a list of applicants and rank them by eligibility before sending to the BOOST advisory board. Though this was likely intended to provide the most aid to the most disadvantaged students, this policy creates unnecessary invasions of privacy and forces a ranking system for students already eligible for the program. This program includes Maryland’s Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, Title 20 Subtitle 6 of the State Governor Article, which requires private schools eligible for vouchers to not discriminate in student admissions based on race, color, national origin or sexual orientation. Though the program includes a protection for religious liberty, “Nothing herein shall require any school or institution to adopt any rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with its religious or moral teachings,” the effect of this expanded layer of regulatory control is yet to be determined.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: 100 percent x FRL
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Voucher Cap: 100% Statewide Average Per-Pupil Expenditure by Local Education Agencies
  • Testing Mandates: State Assessments

 

School Requirements

  • Participate in Program R00A03.04 Aid to Non-Public Schools Program for Textbooks and Computer Hardware and Software
  • Have at least one grade above kindergarten
  • Administer all assessments in accordance with federal and state law
  • Comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as emended, Title 20 Subtitle 6 of the State Governor Article
  • Agree not to discriminate in student admissions on the basis of race, color, national origin or sexual orientation.

Legal History

No legal challenges have been filed against the program.

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