As in past years, President Bush’s 2007 federal budget includes a request for funds to start a massive, ideologically driven school voucher program. In this year’s budget the President asks for $300 million to be diverted from public schools, three times more taxpayer money than Bush has ever proposed spending on vouchers in the past. Congress has never approved money to fund a national private school voucher program.
Tanya Clay House, Public Policy Director for People For the American Way, pronounced the voucher plan “dead on arrival.” House went on to say, “Even in a Republican controlled Congress, President Bush couldn’t pass a national program like this one. It’s ludicrous to think that the new Congress would decide to spend money on such an ill-conceived program that won’t help public school students or their schools.”
House noted that instead of supporting public school students, the budget proposed large cuts in funding for successful programs like Head Start (which would lose $100 million) and the Safe and Drug Free Schools program (which would be cut by $246.5 million). All told, the budget would underfund No Child Left Behind by $14.8 billion.
“The basis of No Child Left Behind is that schools should be accountable for whether or not children learn,” said House. “But now the President is trying to send hundreds of millions of dollars to schools that are not held to account in any way. It’s completely hypocritical to demand accountability from one education program, while exempting another. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s no way to use precious taxpayer funding for education.”
Right wing activists have long sought to privatize the public education system, but so far no hard evidence has shown that voucher programs actually help student achievement. Said House: “Vouchers have always been about ideology, not education.”