Despite Mayor Williams’s sudden capitulation to voucher proponents, he does not speak for the vast majority of District residents. He certainly was not elected on a pro-voucher platform. Indeed, a November 2002 poll determined that 76% of DC voters continue to oppose taxpayer-funded vouchers if that means less money for public school students, with only 17 percent favoring such a diversion of public funds. Because DC schools receive their federal money based upon a per pupil formula, vouchers most certainly mean less money for the DC Public School system. By opposing vouchers, U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton has consistently represented the majority will of District residents. Additionally, in a 1981 referendum, DC voters overwhelmingly rejected private school vouchers by a vote of 89% to 11%.
D.C. citizens are not unusual in their rejection of vouchers and other schemes to divert public funds to private schools. Every single time the voters of any state have been asked to approve a private-school voucher plan the initiative has been defeated—in most cases by overwhelming margins. Since 1970, voters have firmly rejected voucher initiatives in Colorado, Michigan, Washington State, Maryland, and California in eight different referenda. 1
School Superintendent Paul Vance has clearly expressed his opposition to DC voucher initiatives because they are certain to divert critical resources from public schools. As stated by School Board Member William Lockridge, “The current pro-voucher advocacy of our Board President Peggy Cooper-Cafritz reflects her personal change of heart regarding this issue; however, the Board has spoken. We do not want vouchers in the District of Columbia.”
The Chair of the DC Council, Linda Cropp has expressed her support for choice in the District through charter schools, not private school vouchers. In her testimony to the House Committee on Government Reform, Cropp stated that DC already has school choice in the form of charter schools and that DC residents “should be allowed to resolve their educational issues locally as do other jurisdictions.”
Moreover, the DC Council’s last vote on this issue overwhelmingly opposed vouchers. Despite one expressed change by Councilmember Chavous, the Council’s vote still stands until overturned by the entire Council.
Finally, Councilmembers Carol Schwartz, Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham, Phil Mendelson, Sandra Allen and Vincent Orange have clearly reiterated their opposition to a voucher program.