A voucher program championed by former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) that allows low-income students in the state to attend private schools using state money is quietly causing friction among Democrats in Annapolis.
On one side is Hogan’s successor, Gov. Wes Moore (D), who, backed by top leaders of the House of Delegates, moved to slash 20 percent of the $10 million in state-funded scholarships from his first budget, with the goal of phasing the program out, saying public dollars should go to public schools.
On the other side are some top Senate leaders who see the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, program as a vehicle for equity that affords choices to students living in poverty and attending failing school systems.
“I’ve seen a number of low-income students in my own district really excel and succeed in schools that are doing really great work for them, both academically and socially, and emotionally,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said Friday. “And so, my thoughts are that so long as we are fully funding our public schools and doing more than is expected for our public schools that we should help students in different sorts of circumstances.”
Some Black Democratic leaders find themselves at odds over the fate of the program, which will be decided as lawmakers hammer out a spending plan in the final weeks of the General Assembly’s 90-day session. The rift highlights ideological differences within Maryland’s supermajority in the legislature and lays bare challenges the governor, a political newcomer, faces within his own party as he advances his agenda.
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