As chairman of the Washington Scholarship Fund, the organization charged with administering the D.C. voucher program, I want to set the record straight regarding Justin Blum's June 11 front-page article, "D.C. School Vouchers Outnumber Applicants."
Rather than falling short, the Washington Scholarship Fund managed to generate so much interest in the voucher program that it was oversubscribed by more than 500 eligible applicants for the scholarships available. (We received 1,721 applications from eligible children for the 1,200 new scholarships that will be made available to D.C. students from kindergarten through 12th grade.) Whether considering the full scope of applications received or even just eligible families, an accurate headline would have read: "More Applicants Than Spaces for D.C. Vouchers."
The scholarship fund is not able to offer scholarships to all eligible students because those who applied in grades 6 to 12 outnumbered the available school spaces and because we put in place criteria to limit the number of private school students receiving scholarships.
The only meaningful way to assess the level of interest in the voucher program is by examining the total number of applications, rather than just the number from eligible students. This year we received more than 2,600 voucher applications from the families of D.C. schoolchildren.
The Washington Scholarship Fund has built the voucher program from scratch. We averaged more than 150 applications a day in the 17 days workers met with families receiving their paperwork. In the end it was necessary to cut off applications so that the lottery could be run and students could be placed in schools.
We at the fund have been working on the D.C. voucher program for only 79 days. In that time, we have enlisted 50 schools to participate, processed more than 2,600 applications, whittled the pool down to more than 1,720 eligible applicants and now plan to enroll about 1,200 students.
The Post can and should do better in reporting on our not unimpressive progress.
JOSEPH E. ROBERT JR.
Chairman, Board of Directors
Washington Scholarship Fund
It is good that the D.C. vouchers program is underway, though it no doubt will take time to implement fully. In the meantime, it is a great pity that many families with children already enrolled in Catholic schools have been refused a place in the program.
Georgetown students working in my Catholic Schools Project regularly report that children with whom they have been working have been withdrawn halfway through the academic year, both because their parents can no longer afford the tuition and because by December most scholarship funds have been exhausted.
Surely it was the will of Congress that vouchers be extended to such families, particularly under the present circumstances, where there are funds available.
JOHN C. HIRSH
Director, Catholic Schools Project