Maryland’s targeted educational choice program was on the chopping block earlier this year. With Democrats controlling both legislative chambers and flipping the governor’s mansion, the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Scholarship Program’s future looked bleak.
Instead, lawmakers removed language from the state budget that phased out the BOOST program over the coming years and voted to provide $9 million in funding for the 2023–24 school year.
After Maryland Gov. West Moore proposed steep cuts to BOOST, state Senate President Bill Ferguson (who represents South Baltimore) defended the program. With his background as a Baltimore City public school teacher, he argued in favor of BOOST and its role in providing “a portfolio of options” that helps all students reach their full potential.
Despite staunch opposition from Moore and House Democrats, Ferguson brokered a deal that reduced the proposed cut to BOOST and kept the program intact for future students—a massive win for school choice in Maryland.
Other blue states can replicate what happened in Maryland, but only if Democrats listen to their constituents.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed—three times now—legislation to provide scholarships to low-income students in the lowest-performing schools in the state. Lifeline Scholarships, also known as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Scholarship Program, would provide $100 million in Education Opportunity Accounts for these students.
For parents and students to have the choice and freedom in education they deserve, we need more courageous policymakers like Ferguson and fewer afraid of school unions. Furthermore, Shapiro needs to lead with conviction, keep his promise, and lead his party to pass meaningful reforms, such as Lifeline Scholarships/PASS.
Ultimately, while lawmakers battle one another over programs like BOOST and Lifeline Scholarships/PASS, kids are the casualties. Instead of tedious political games, we need statesmen willing to stand up for kids trapped in failing schools.
Nathan Benefield is the Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.