Pell Grants for Kids

President Bush unveiled a proposal that he calls “Pell Grants for Kids.” It looks like an enhancement to the school choice options of No Child Left Behind. Here’s an excerpt from a document released by the White House:

Pell Grants For Kids Will Provide New Options For Parents Of Children Trapped In Underperforming Schools

Pell Grants for Kids would support State and local efforts to increase educational options for low-income K-12 students enrolled in the Nation’s most troubled public schools. Under the Pell Grants for Kids program, the Education Department would make competitive awards to States, cities, local educational agencies, and nonprofit organizations to develop K-12 scholarship programs for eligible low-income students attending schools that have not made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind for five years, or that have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent.

  • Students in chronically underperforming schools could use scholarships to pay tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses at higher-performing out-of-district public schools or nearby private or faith-based schools. These scholarships would supplement aid already available through the Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies program and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which would follow the child.
  • Pell Grants for Kids is modeled after the highly successful Federal Pell Grant program for college students. The Federal Pell Grant program provides low-income students with financial support to attend any of more than 5,000 public, private, and faith-based colleges. The same choice, flexibility, and support now available to students seeking a quality college education should be offered to low-income families with children in chronically low-performing schools.

In an election year, it’s hard to imagine that the proposal will go anywhere. But it is true that Pell Grants, and the model of competition among providers, has worked at the college level.  Now if only states would borrow more from that example.

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