Senate Discards Private School Vouchers

The Senate has eliminated an experimental private school voucher program from legislation funding District of Columbia public schools and other city operations. The voucher plan was narrowly passed 209-208 by the House of Representatives in September and has met intense opposition from the District’s Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. council members, D.C. School Board members, and D.C. residents, parents and clergy.

“We are encouraged by the Senate’s action yesterday,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “The American people understand that a vote for private school vouchers is a vote to undermine public education. We urge the conferees and their colleagues in the House and Senate to resist the efforts of voucher supporters to thwart the will of D.C. residents and undermine our public education system.”

The voucher language was expected to be included in a larger bill funding District of Columbia operations. It is now likely that voucher supporters will try to include the voucher language in an end of session wrap-up bill.

“We expect voucher supporters to resort to highhanded legislative tactics to put the voucher language into an omnibus before the Thanksgiving recess,” said Marge Baker, director of Public Policy and People For the American Way.

“Our elected officials must separate the fiction from the facts, respect the wishes of D.C. residents, and to reject this voucher proposal,” said Neas. “D.C. public school students need Congress to sincerely address their needs by providing them with quality teachers, smaller class sizes, and better facilities. In contrast, this voucher program neglects the vast majority of students by ignoring the real problems facing DC public schools.”

A number of studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, have shown that existing voucher programs do not improve student achievement. In addition, the D.C. voucher proposal lacks meaningful financial and academic accountability and allows for private schools to discriminate based upon religion, disability, gender, English language proficiency and academic performance.

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