DC Voucher Opposition Rally Statement by Ralph G. Neas

At a Capitol Hill rally opposing a scheme to use federal tax dollars for school vouchers in the District of Columbia, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas had the following statement:

“Imposing an experimental voucher program on the parents of the District of Columbia and their children is wrong. The DC council has opposed vouchers, and the last time DC voters had a chance to vote on public funding for private schools, they said no. This time, they didn’t get to vote.

“The truth is that every single time parents in any state have gotten to vote, they’ve defeated private-school vouchers by resounding margins. In eight ballot initiatives since 1970, vouchers have been voted down in Colorado, Michigan, California, Maryland and Washington State.

“And poll after poll shows that the American public rejects the idea of private-school vouchers. A poll by nationally renowned Phi Delta Kappa showed that opposition to using public dollars to fund private schools is rising sharply, from 52 percent opposed in 2002 rising to 62 percent opposed in 2003.

“In fact, the only way they could get this plan through the House was using world-record arm-twisting. The only way they can get it through the Senate is to wrap it into a spending bill so wide-ranging that it has become a juggernaut. And of course, the people of DC have no vote in Congress.

“But even if this provision passes Congress, it will not be the end of the story. We’re going to use every tool available to us to fight this proposal for two important reasons: private-school vouchers don’t work, and they siphon off million of dollars in resources that could be used to benefit children in public schools.

“At People For the American Way Foundation, we’ve done exhaustive reports on vouchers in Cleveland, Milwaukee and the state of Florida. In every case, we’ve found that these programs encourage discrimination. In Milwaukee, discrimination was so excessive that we had to file a complaint against the voucher program.

"In every case, they have failed even minimal standards of public accountability. Private school vouchers have never demonstrated that they can offer an education superior to public schools.

"In every case they have depleted funds that could have been used for programs that we know work – like reducing class size and encouraging greater parental involvement in schools.

“That’s where the millions of dollars planned for DC vouchers ought to go – to benefit children in DC’s public schools. This fight is not over.”

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