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Numbers crunch

"Numbers crunch" Continued...

Issue: "The Purge," Sept. 12, 2009

And in Washington, the voucher program has won the support of the majority of the D.C. City Council-something advocates said neither they nor their opponents thought would happen. Sen. Joe Lieberman has introduced a bill to reauthorize the program, more Democrats have signed on than expected, and seven City Council members wrote a letter asking that the voucher program continue. Ladner sees growing, irreconcilable tension between the teachers unions, which he calls "the most reactionary force within American politics today," and a Democratic Party that is genuinely progressive: "These two things don't add up. Their desire to see better educational outcomes, especially for disadvantaged kids, are being directly undermined by a traditional ally."

In the meantime, Angie Levin and her students and parents cope with uncertain funding. At the end of June, neither she nor her teachers knew if they'd be coming back next fall. The voucher program has become a tax-credit program so the school will survive, but parents and lawyers are already bracing for a legal assault on that program, too. The tax-credit program will depend on the ability of tax-credit organizations to collect $5 million before Dec. 1. Legally, they couldn't start collecting funds until Aug. 26. School started Aug. 24.

Angie said even with the voucher program, the school faced shaky funding every year, since one year the state legislature didn't fund it until the Department of Education stepped in. The voucher money never came on time and the families couldn't pay tuition costs out of pocket, so every three months the Levins borrowed from friends and businesses to scrape together the money to keep going until the state reimbursed them.

The Levins are careful to keep the school secular since it is dependent on state funds; but privately, they pray to keep it going. There were times when Angie sat down with payrolls and checks to write and no money: "I just prayed my brains out: 'Lord, where is it? I need it!' And the scholarship check will be literally in the mailbox."

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