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Parents, students praise school choice during meeting with Gov. Lombardo

Updated May 8, 2023 - 6:02 pm

Gov. Joe Lombardo heard from students and parents at a private Christian school Monday who told him how much the Opportunity Scholarship program had helped their education.

The event — held at Mountain View Christian School — was meant to highlight Assembly Bill 400, which would expand the program from its current $6.6 million per fiscal year to 0.5 percent of the state Education Fund, increasing to 5 percent by the 2031-2032 school year.

“Today, we’re trying to achieve momentum,” Lombardo told an auditorium full of parents and students. “We want legislators who are making the decisions to hear your voice.”

Kristyn Ramos, a senior at Mountain View and the student body president, said she struggled at first at the school but is now an AP student.

“All this would not be possible without Opportunity Scholarships,” she said.

Ezra Ramos, a sixth-grade student, said he was homeschooled before he came to Mountain View and lacked social skills. But now he’s on the honor roll, he said.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the Opportunity Scholarship,” he added.

Several students talked about being bullied in public schools before coming to Mountain View. Liberty Lockwood, an 11th grader, recalled being bullied but finding a different atmosphere at Mountain View with the help of an Opportunity Scholarship.

“No one has ever given up on me once,” she said.

Several of the students also testified that they were happy to be able to discuss their religious faith freely at Mountain View, something they said they would not be able to do in a public school setting.

There are currently 190 students at the campus on Maryland Parkway near Bridger Avenue, said Principal Raymond LeBoeuf.

Tuition at the campus ranges from $7,200 a year for kindergarten through sixth grade, $8,000 for junior high and $9,000 for high school. The Opportunity Scholarship doesn’t cover all of the costs, and the school has scholarships and tuition discounts, LeBoeuf said.

“The people in this community qualify (for the scholarship),” he said. “The people in this community want that.”

Lombardo said he didn’t know how far apart Democrats and Republicans might be on the scholarship’s price tag because he hadn’t discussed specifics with legislative leaders yet.

“Hopefully we’re going to achieve that this week, because we’re running out of time, as you know,” the governor said.

There are four weeks left in the session before its scheduled end on June 5.

Lombardo did say, however, that he was open to increasing Opportunity Scholarships in smaller amounts if that would provide ground for a compromise.

“You know what, if it has to be incremental, it needs to be incremental, and we will continue to address it as years go by,” he said. “We don’t have to have the answer all at once.”

An email seeking comment from Assembly Democrats was not immediately returned.

AB 400 also would allow charter schools to apply for transportation for their students; allow students in public schools to transfer to other public schools in the district if there are open seats; allow cities or counties to sponsor charter schools; increase the maximum income threshold for eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship from 300 percent of the federal poverty line to 500 percent; and restore a requirement in the Read by 3 law that requires school districts to hold students back in third grade if they can’t read at grade level, with some exceptions.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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