In the budget deal reached last week, the GOP used the threat of a devastating government shutdown to push a right-wing priority that has nothing to do with saving money or even with the 2011 budget: reimposition of a five-year private school voucher program for the District of Columbia, beginning next year.
The program, which stopped accepting new students in 2009, was found by the Department of Education to be ineffective at raising student achievement. Its reinstatement, which would cost federal taxpayers $100 million over five years, is opposed by DC’s elected leadership, including the city’s mayor and nonvoting delegate in Congress.
“It is bad enough that Republicans in Congress resurrected an ineffective private school voucher program that raises troubling constitutional issues and that DC doesn’t even want,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But they added insult to injury by tossing an additional $100 million into the program for another five years. Study after study has shown that the voucher program has done nothing to help DC’s kids learn – the main beneficiaries are the religious institutions that receive funding that would be better spent on public schools, and Republican members of Congress who receive a talking point for their base. Congressional Republicans need to stop playing with the lives of DC’s most vulnerable just to advance their personal ideologies—from women’s healthcare to public education. The GOP’s crusade to impose their agenda on the people of D.C. creates no jobs and saves no money. They should be spending time fixing the budget crisis that their party’s policies created and that they claim to be so concerned about.”