EDUCATION

D.C. school voucher funding left out of 2013 federal budget

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(WJLA, AP) - President Barack Obama's budget proposal includes no new funding for a private school voucher program for District of Columbia students.

Needy D.C. families can currently get $12,000 per year from the government to send their kids to private schools. (Photo: TBD Staff)

The nation's capital is the only jurisdiction where federal tax dollars are used to subsidize private-school tuition. Needy students can receive up to $12,000 a year to attend private schools of their choice.

At the private Bridges Academy, many if not most of the students depend on vouchers to attend school. The cut in what they call the opportunity scholarships is serious news for many.

Antonia Coles has four children who receive the scholarships.

"I didn't feel [my kids] were getting the proper education in public school and they get the best education here," Coles said. "Without the scholarship, I don't know what I could do."

At the Obama administration's urging, Congress agreed in 2009 to phase out the program. But it was revived last year as part of a budget deal with House Republicans.

Bridges Academy Director Lillette Campbell was surprised to hear the news.

"I thought the program had been re-authorized for five years," Campbell said.

In Obama's previous federal aid plan, $20 million went to public schools, charters and vouchers. However in this years new budget, Obama gives millions to public and charter schools but none to vouchers.

The President's budget stated there is enough money left over in this years voucher budget for current students next year, but no word on what happens after that. In the past, voucher supporters have protested lack of funding and gained support from Republicans on the Hill.

House Speaker John Boehner is a big proponent of the voucher program and is likely to try to get the funding reinstated. Students already participating in the program would be allowed to continue under Obama's budget.

Many Democrats say the money would be better spent on public schools.

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