As a matter of education policy, the federally-mandated D.C. voucher program is unsound and unwise, authorizing the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools that are effectively unaccountable to the public for their use of those funds. Moreover, as this preliminary examination of the D.C. voucher program has shown, the serious deficiencies in the program have been exacerbated by flaws in the enabling legislation that have, for example, allowed hundreds of students already attending private schools to be given vouchers, as well as by the program’s failure, at least to date, to effectuate the priorities of the legislation even as stated by Congress. In particular, as implemented in its first year, the program is not primarily serving low-income students in D.C.’s public schools most in need of improvement, the main goal of the voucher program according to Congress. At the very minimum, the voucher program should not continue until the problems revealed by the implementation of the program so far have been addressed and resolved.
Ironically, at the same time that Congress has authorized the expenditure of millions of dollars in federal funds to send some students in D.C. to private schools, it has continued to fail to fully fund the No Child Left Behind initiative in D.C.’s public schools by more than $44 million. If Congress is genuinely concerned about improving the educational opportunities for low-income students in our nation’s capital, it should re-think the wisdom of using public funds to send some students to private schools, leaving the rest behind in underfunded public schools.