In 2005, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, proposed a Committee amendment to the FY 2006 District of Columbia appropriations bill, which would have:
- Expanded the program into Maryland and Virginia schools;
- Increased the voucher cap from $7500 to $12000;
- Expanded the eligible participants for the program by increasing the income requirements so that families at or below 200% of the poverty level could have participated; and
- Increased the percentage of money that could be used for administration costs from 3% to 9%.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) immediately announced her opposition to Chairman Brownback’s proposal, later joined by DC Mayor Anthony Williams. This was significant because both supported the initial “experimental” plan for DC vouchers.
As a result of quick mobilization efforts by public education advocates and public opposition to the expansion, Chairman Brownback announced he would halt his attempt to expand the program during the FY 2006 appropriations process. At the same time, Chairman Brownback indicated his desire to hold future hearings to discuss the “needs” of the DC voucher program.
The FY 2007 appropriations process is underway. Thus far, the FY 2007 appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies (H.R. 5576) includes the $15 million President Bush requested for DC vouchers. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 5576 on June 14, 2006 by a vote of 406-22. Timing of Senate consideration is unknown.
The FY 2007 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (H.R. 5647) does not include any of the $100 million in additional funding for new voucher programs requested by the President. That bill was passed by the House Appropriations Committee, but timing of floor consideration is unknown. The bill has yet to be reviewed by the Senate.
PFAW will continue to monitor the FY 2007 appropriations process to ensure that DC voucher program expansions are not implemented at the expense of students in the nation’s capital or elsewhere. PFAW will also carefully observe events on Capitol Hill as the 2008 reauthorization deadline for the existing pilot program approaches.
Updated June 26, 2006