Is $7,500 Enough for a Voucher in DC?

Published November 1, 2003

In explaining why she had just voted against the DC voucher plan in July, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) told a group of black parents the proposed $7,500 voucher wouldn’t be enough to cover tuition at the private school where she sends her two children. With tuition at the school–Georgetown Day–set at $15,218 for elementary students and $21,327 for secondary students, Landrieu’s statement was factually correct.

But a new survey conducted by David F. Salisbury of the Cato Institute shows there are 43 other private elementary schools in the District with tuition less than $7,500 per year, plus four high schools with tuition of $7,500 or less. While private high schools are particularly expensive in Washington, DC, the survey notes the median tuition at private high schools in neighboring counties in Maryland and Virginia is less than $7,500. Significantly, the voucher proposal for the District specifically excludes these neighboring lower-cost schools from the program.

This latter observation underscores a point emphasized by Salisbury in his report: Avoid placing regulations on private schools. While Salisbury’s primary concern is with regulations “that would limit the diversity of standards, school practices, curricula, and educational philosophies that exists in the private school market,” limiting parents’ choices to private schools within the District also would have the effect of diluting the positive effects of competition.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].