School Choice & Charters

GAO Urges Better Oversight of Voucher Program in D.C.

By Christina A. Samuels — November 13, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A congressional watchdog agency has determined that the federally funded voucher program serving students in the District of Columbia needs to exercise better oversight of its money and devise a way to ensure parents are getting up-to-date information about the 60 schools that accept the vouchers.

But representatives from the 4-year-old Washington Scholarship Fund, which administers the tuition-aid program, said the Nov. 1 report from the Government Accountability Office contained several inaccuracies, and that several of the recommendations have been voluntarily addressed. The GAO report also failed to note the high satisfaction level among parents of children in the program, the program administrators say.

The program was enacted by Congress in 2004 to provide scholarships of up to $7,500 for children in the 58,000-student District of Columbia school system to attend higher-performing private schools. Students in low-performing schools and those from low-income families are given priority.

See Also

Read the accompanying story,

Utah’s Vote Raises Bar on Choice

The GAO report notes that the budget for the program has grown quickly, from start-up funding of $150,000 in its first year to $12.9 million in fiscal 2006. Currently, 1,903 children are receiving the scholarships and attend 54 different schools.

“With such rapid expansion, [the Washington Scholarship Fund] had little time to design or implement the needed procedures and internal controls for managing such a major increase in its operations,” the report says.

Fund’s Response

The GAO also says that program administrators have faced challenges in recruiting students, ensuring the quality of private schools that receive the vouchers, and providing parents with accurate information about private school options.

“The information that [program administrators] provided to parents to help them choose schools for children was not always complete and correct,” the report says. Some schools participating in the program reported that some of the teachers did not have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The Washington Scholarship Fund disagreed sharply with some of the findings, which they reviewed when the report was in draft form.

“Ultimately … we must emphasize that the draft report cites absolutely no evidence that federal ... program funds have been spent for anything other than genuine educational purposes,” wrote Gregory M. Cork, the president and chief executive officer of the scholarship fund.

The fund said it also plans to work closely with the U.S. Department of Education and the local government to strengthen the voucher program.

A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 2007 edition of Education Week as GAO Urges Better Oversight Of Voucher Program in D.C.


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Opinion What the Heck Are Microschools?
Microschooling aims to create a more active learning environment for students than what's found in traditional school systems.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Opinion White Parents Say They Want Diverse Schools, But Will They Send Their Kids?
Racial stereotypes and reluctance to be in a racial minority are part of the calculus of how white parents choose schools.
Kathleen Hayes & Cassandra Kaczocha
5 min read
Conceptual image of two circles of influence, with one much bigger than the other.
ajijchan/iStock/Getty and Laura Baker/EdWeek
School Choice & Charters Do Vouchers and ESAs Take Money From Public Schools? How States Fund School Choice
Republican state lawmakers have ramped up programs that dedicate public funds for parents to spend on their children’s private education.
7 min read
Illustration of a large hand inserting a coin into the top of a stack of books
School Choice & Charters Opinion What Is an Education Savings Account, and Why Does It Matter?
ESAs shift us from a system of “school” choice to “educational” choice, opening the door to a system that offers more customizable options.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty