The Maryland Public Policy Institute
MPPI IN THE NEWS
For many Maryland children, the only disruption they face in their schooling is fun: Summer break. For foster children, disruption is a way of life. And it severely limits their chances of developing into productive citizens and good parents.
Fate does not have to dictate the outcomes of 10,000 foster children in the state, about 7,000 in Baltimore City, however. The General Assembly can lessen the number of disruptions by giving them school vouchers.
Vouchers will not solve all of their problems, but they can give some of the most vulnerable children stability in an area that can greatly determine their success later in life.
As the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Dan Lips testified before Congress earlier this month, “School transfers create gaps in the learning cycle. They force children to adjust to new classroom settings, teachers and classmates and cause children to lose social networks, peer groups and relationships with adults — relationships that can be particularly important to foster care children with tumultuous family lives.”
Those switches take a toll on a foster child’s academic performance. Studies show foster children score lower on standardized tests and drop out more frequently than other children. Many also do not have access to special services their situation demands, including tutoring and counseling.
This ultimately affects their lives. Foster children are more likely to be homeless, to depend on welfare and Medicaid as adults and to be convicted of crimes than the rest of us. Vouchers would give foster children a chance to choose the school that best meets their needs — and stay there even if they are sent to another foster home.
Granting vouchers to foster children must not be a partisan issue. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, signed legislation in 2006 launching the nation’s first K-12 foster voucher program designed by the state’s own Maryland Public Policy Institute. It will give $5,000 to each foster child in Arizona to attend private schools starting this fall.
At a time when the General Assembly must face a “doomsday budget” next session because of a $1.5 billion “structural” deficit, this program won’t cost a dime. It would require a shifting of funds rather than new ones and can only drastically improve academic performance and the chance for a productive adult life.
Members must pass it. Failing to do so would not only be bad fiscal policy because of the money it will save taxpayers in welfare, prison and Medicaid bills, but immoral.
Ten thousand children are waiting for someone to do the right thing. Don’t let these children down.