The Maryland General Assembly approved increasing the Maryland State Department of Education’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program funding from $5.5 million in 2018 to $7 million in 2019.
In addition to that amount, rollover from fiscal year 2018 will be used as scholarships for students with disabilities.
BOOST provides scholarships for students from low-income families to attend private schools.
In December 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans to double the funding for the BOOST program from $5 million to $10 million over the course of three years. After two consecutive years of funding increases, the state is slightly below halfway to Hogan’s stated goal.
For fiscal year 2019, the state Senate approved an increase of more than $3 million from the $5.5 million allocated for fiscal year 2018. The House of Delegates, however, did not approve of an increase, leaving the budget item to be negotiated in a conference committee hearing. That hearing resulted in the increase to $7 million.
Prior to the hearing, Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-District 41) wrote a letter to the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-District 4), urging her to support an increase in funding for the BOOST program. In the letter, Rosenberg noted that in fiscal year 2018, 629 low-income Jewish students were provided a total of $876,800 in scholarships.
“It is a relatively low-dollar government program that has a tremendous impact. It alleviates financial burden on struggling families and improves academic outcomes,” Rosenberg wrote.
“I’ve supported funding for parochial school parents and their children since the second Glendening administration, 20 years now,” Rosenberg told the JT. “It’s very important both from an educational standpoint and a financial standpoint.”
Last year, schools were required to send the Maryland State Department of Education substantially more information in order to be approved for scholarships. Despite having a waitlist for students eligible for the scholarship, this hold up caused hundreds of thousands of dollars to remain unspent.
Sarah Mersky, director of government relations for the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the allocation of the roll over money is extremely important. “This year, they put $7 million in the budget, however, any funding that wasn’t spent from last year will roll over,” she said, adding that the state “didn’t have to have it roll over, it could have gone back to general funds.”
The MSDE has yet to determine the exact amount of funds that will roll over.