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Federal Program Offers Private-School Vouchers To D.C. Students

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The voucher program is unpopular with teachers because it is said to take money out of public schools.
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The voucher program is unpopular with teachers because it is said to take money out of public schools.

Nearly 300 children have been awarded new private-school tuition vouchers under a federal program that's been the source of tension between Congress and the White House. The D.C. Opportunity scholarship program is awarding approximately 1,800 vouchers this year.

Salma Khan is the director of the effort. She says there are about 300 new students in the program this year, and that most of them come from households receiving food stamps.

"The funding is geared towards low-income students in the district who attend school that have been designated as in need of improvement," says Khan.

Carlos Battle is currently a student at Northeastern University and the first person in his family to go to college. He says the scholarship program helped him get where he is today, and that thanks to the program, his younger brother is on the same path.

"He could've been one of the kids outside doing what he's not supposed to," says Battle. "Instead, he took a better route that will help him and his future. I'm just proud of him."

Since the program was started in 2004, more than 5,000 students have recieved vouchers. The vouchers offer recipients up to $12,205 to attend private high schools or $8,136 for elementary and middle schools.

The program has been in place since 2004, and the nation's capital is the only jurisdiction where federal tax dollars are used to subsidize private-school tuition. The Obama administration has attempted to phase it out, but House Majority Leader John Boehner and others in Congress have fought to keep it.

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