Beginning in fall 2004 the D.C. School Choice Initiative will provide $14 million for approximately 2,000 low-income children in failing D.C. public schools. Students will receive grants of up to $7,500 each to attend parochial or private schools, but the bill also provides $13 million for government schools and $13 million for additional charter schools.
That means the program lacks a key element of competitive markets: The D.C. public schools have no financial incentive to improve because the money does not follow the child leaving the public school. In fact, the D.C. schools will have significantly more money now than before the voucher initiative. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, arguably the father of public school choice, sums it up as "$40 million for 2,000 vouchers or $20,000 per voucher, of which at most $7,500 goes to the school accepting the voucher."
Despite this drawback, a few D.C. children will have more options, and some of the huge number of public education dollars will flow to other school providers. School choice supporters hope the high-profile program will spur similar legislation in other cities with failing public schools.