The D.C. school board voted last night to suspend operation of a controversial new program under which District of Columbia teachers would earn master's degrees in 20 weeks unless school system officials tell the board by April 27 specifically how the program is to be funded and the degrees awarded.

The program, called the Professional Development Institute, was formed three weeks ago by Dr. Rhody McCoy, special assistant to acting schools superintendent James T. Guines, to give teachers training in curriculum, management and community relations. Teachers were told also that they could earn master's degrees by attending the institute for 10 hours on each of 20 successive Saturdays.

Several board members said they were concerned that the University of Massachusetts, which school officials apparently hoped would accredit graduate work under the program, does not have a license to conduct classes or award degrees in the District of Columbia.

Some members complained also that, although the board had set aside $60,000 to help finance the institute, neither McCoy nor Guines had ever explained exactly for what the money was to be used. They argued that the system is facing a possible budget deficit of $10 million this year and the money could be used to hire more teachers.

Institute classes have been held for the past three weeks at Logan Community School on Capitol Hill even though there is no arrangement as yet with Massachusetts or any other school to grant degrees. About 75 teachers are enrolled in the program.