Congress set aside $20 million for the D.C. voucher program this year. Since 2004, the federal government has appropriated $133 million for the program.
Private schools that participate in the D.C. program don’t have to disclose the number of voucher students they enroll or how much public money they receive, and many declined to release such information to The Post.
While public schools must report test scores and take action when they don’t meet goals, private schools participating in the D.C. voucher program are insulated from such interference.
The schools must administer a single standardized test, but can choose the type. Those scores are not made public, and schools can stay in the voucher program no matter how their students fare.
Schools that accept vouchers are required to hold a certificate of occupancy and employ teachers who are college graduates, but they do not have to be accredited. The Post found that at least eight of the 52 schools are not accredited.
Parents, not the government, should determine a school’s quality, according to Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), a proud product of Catholic schools who designed the voucher program. “Our belief is that parents — when provided appropriate information — will select the best learning environment for their children,” he wrote in an e-mail.
At Archbishop Carroll High School, where 40 percent of students receive vouchers, principal Mary Elizabeth Blaufuss agrees. “The question is, to what extent do we trust parents to make educational decisions for their kids?” she said.
Santa Carballo knew little about the Academia de la Recta Porta before enrolling her daughter, Emma, through the voucher program. She chose it because it was across the street from the Catholic school for boys that her son attends, also with a voucher, and it seemed better than a neighborhood public school that has failed for years to meet achievement targets.
“This is private, it’s good,” said Carballo, an immigrant from El Salvador who works as a waitress and struggles with English. “It’s more intelligent. And it’s religious, it’s good. I’m so happy.”
A nondenominational Christian school, the Academia charges $7,100 a year and occupies a soot-stained storefront between a halal meat shop and an evening wear boutique on a busy stretch of Georgia Avenue NW near the Maryland line.
The K-12 school consists of two classrooms. A drum set and keyboard are stowed in a corner for music class; for gym, students travel nearly two miles down Georgia Avenue to the city’s Emery Recreation Center.