The authorization for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) expired in the 107th Congress, and the 108th Congress is now in the process of reauthorizing it. The House passed H.R. 1350, an IDEA reauthorization bill, in April of 2003. The bill did not pass with a voucher program, which many thought would occur, but it also did not require mandatory full funding of IDEA. In the Senate, IDEA reauthorization, S. 1248, was reported out of committee on June 25, 2003. Like the House bill, the Senate bill does not require mandatory full funding of IDEA or a voucher program. This bill has not yet been brought to the full Senate for debate and a vote.
Members of Congress have once again introduced tuition tax credit legislation. On January 7, 2003, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) introduced H.R. 120, the Voluntary Opportunities for Increasing Contributions to Education Act, which would provide tax credits to individuals and corporations for 75% of their contributions to private schools, including tuition and facility construction or renovation. On January 29, 2003, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) introduced H.R. 499, the Education, Achievement and Opportunity Act that would provide a refundable tax credit for tuition at private schools. Both bills have been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. To date, no hearings have taken place on these measures.
Recently, Congress approved a DC voucher program through the FY 2004 omnibus appropriations package – a massive piece of legislation that included seven appropriations bills. The DC voucher language would not have passed the Senate if it had not been put into such an important piece of legislation while it was in conference. The omnibus bill establishes the DC voucher program and appropriates $14 million for private school vouchers.
In his FY 2005 budget request, President Bush has requested $64 million for voucher programs across the country. DC vouchers were a start, and now the President is attempting to expand unaccountable private school vouchers and undermine our nation’s public schools in the process.
Updated March 10, 2004