BOOST program: Helping or hurting Maryland students?

Posted at 1:52 PM, Jan 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-24 06:37:48-05

Maryland's Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today Program, or BOOST, has only been around for a year, but it's controversial to the Maryland State Education Association.

Sean Johnson, MSEA Government Relations Director, says the program takes millions of dollars away from public schools and hurts those students left behind.

"After school programs, and the amount of money that the Governor cut from that program this year in order to fund his voucher program to subsidize private schools is about equal," Johnson said.

Jim Sellinger, Chancellor of Education for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, says that money is not inside the education budget. The Department of Legislative Services says the money was pulled from the Cigarette Restitution Fund.

The BOOST program was allotted $5 million for the 2016-2017 school year and Governor Hogan wants to increase that number to $7 million for the 2017-2018 school year, according to Johnson.

That program gives money to students who qualify for the free and reduced-price meals (FRPM) as a scholarship to help with tuition costs at private schools.

Johnson argues 78% of the students receiving money from the program were already in private schools.

Sellinger said in their 49 schools, they welcomed 150 students due to the BOOST program and said 414 students, who have been attending their schools, received the additional aid.

The Bais Yaakov School welcomed 12 new students after the program went into effect as well.

"It's all about providing the best education for these kids as we possibly can," Sellinger said.

Johnson said public schools need every penny they can get to, "reduce class sizes, improve technology and materials. That should be the focus of the general assembly and Governor Hogan."

Students who transferred to Cardinal Shehan School this year because of the BOOST program said they liked their new school better than their public school.

Marcia is a fourth grader and said she was concerned for her safety at her last school, "In my class there was a boy who when he got in trouble, he used to trash the classroom and one time he threw a desk in my direction."

Divine Wilson, an eighth grader, said he wanted to go to private school and this program made it possible, saying it will prepare him for high school and college.

Adayah Cooper, is an eighth grader as well and wants to become a nurse. Right now she's most excited about the after school programs at Cardinal Shehan, saying she loves to sing. 

"I'm in love with music, so I was like yeah, I want to go here now," Adayah said, "the environment is totally different, it's not crowded in classes, and at my old school it was like 27 in a class and now it's like 17 or 18."

She said that makes it easier for her to learn, as she's less distracted, and it gives her more one on one time with the teacher.

Johnson said he hopes to get the legislature to drop the program, but these students say they need it so they can stay in private school to attend high school and help them get into college.