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The voucher proposals for Washington, D.C. all originate in the United States Congress. There has been no local legislation to implement the taxpayer funded private school subsidy plan. The are several congressional plans in Congress to institute school vouchers for D.C. Both pieces of legislation would provide taxpayer funded grants to D.C. students to attend private schools. The private schools are not required to accept school vouchers; private schools are free to choose or reject students with vouchers just as they are those without. Voucher plans typically permit discrimination in admissions on gender, sexual orientation, disability bases and use federal funds to pay for religious instruction.
The two most prominent voucher plans in Congress are H.R. 2556, authored by Rep. Tom Davis (R- Va.- 11), and which was introduced July 2003; and H.R. 684, which was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R - Ariz.- 6), introduced in February 2003. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) provides a plan for DC vouchers, and the companion piece in the Senate, Part B of S.4, is authored by Sen. Judd Gregg. As of September 19, the Senate may vote on the school voucher legislation, S. 1583, which contains funding for private school tuition grants.
The President's budget.
The Davis Plan for vouchers.
Rep. Davis' bill has advanced more quickly in Congress than Rep. Flake's; HR 2556 was quickly voted out of Congressman Davis' Government Reform Committee. The legislation would provide up to $7,500 per student to voucher recipients who are under 185% of the poverty level. The D.C. Parental Choice Incentive Act of 2003, was introduced by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH).
The Flake/Judd Plan for vouchers
Rep. Flake's voucher bill originated with House Majority Leader Dick Armey while he served in the U.S. House. The voucher legislation passed both Houses of Congress in 1997. President Clinton vetoed the bill in 1998. Congressman Flake's plan would provide grants to approximately 2000 children who are at or below 185% of the poverty line in amounts from $3500 to $5000. A survey by 21st Century School Fund, a D.C. based advocacy organization has shown that local private schools within the price range of this voucher grant lack capacity to absorb 2000 children. Senator Judd's legislation, S. 4, Part B provides similar funding levels to that of the Flake bill. The Judd bill has been referred to committee.
The U.S. House and U.S. Senate have now attached a voucher amendment to HR-2765, the D.C. Appropriations bill, (through which Congress approves D.C.'s spending of local and federally raised tax dollars). This use of congressional riders has been a popular vehicle for implementing programs that lack local D.C. resident support. The inclusion of the hotly debated voucher plan in the D.C. budget bill has stalled the legislation that authorizes all spending for the District of Columbia.
HR 2765 The D.C. Appropriations bill contains an amendment to fund a voucher plan (HR 2556) and awaits
a vote in the House when Congress reconvenes after the summer recess.
HR 2556. The Davis voucher plan was passed by the House Government Reform Committee by a margin of
one vote and has proceeded to the full House for consideration as has the D.C.
Appropriations bill. This plan would fun vouchers at $15 million a year for the next five years.
HR 684. The Flake voucher plan, to provide $7 million in funds to support a voucher program in the first year,
$ 8 million in the second and $10 million in each of 3 years. This bill has been referred to the House
Government Reform Committee. This is dormant and not likely to advance.
S4, Part B The Judd voucher plan. This would authorize and appropriate $7 million to fund a voucher
program. It would fund a program through FY 2009. Part B of S.4, is authored by Sen. Judd Gregg
and approves $55 million in funds for the voucher plan, over the next five years. This legislation has
been referred to the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee. Now dormant, this
legislation should be monitored.
What are vouchers?
Vouchers are grants funded by taxpayers for students to use in private schools. Among the features of voucher programs are the following:
----The private schools are not required to accept school vouchers; private schools are free to choose or reject students with vouchers just as they are those without.
----Voucher schools, which receive public money, may reject students based upon religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability.
----Voucher schools may use federal funds for religious instruction.
----Voucher schools lack accountability to the taxpayers that subsidize them; they would in both congressional plans for D.C. have no substantive requirement for reporting or improving academic achievement by students
----The congressional plans fail to impose the accountability standards on voucher schools that are required of public schools, under the No Child Left Behind law.
Vouchers in other Cities have failed.
Voucher programs exist in several cities across the country and have been studied closely with failing results. Recent studies of the Cleveland program have found such programs Fail to raise achievement scores of participating students as against their peers who remained behind in public schools. In some studies, Cleveland public school students who remain in public schools outperformed private school students. Moreover, voucher programs though implemented purportedly to benefit poor children, are vulnerable to expansion as a subsidy for other populations. Reports about the Cleveland program indicate that the move there is to make the program serve better off families.
Who supports vouchers.
Well-meaning families desperate to give their children a better education have turned to support of public subsidies to private schools for the answer. Some of these parents have been personally recruited for pay to 'educate' other parents to bring them over to the support of voucher programs. Many voucher proponents will point to these families, many of whom by anecdotal account, have received substantial stipends, to participate in public demonstrations and speak publicly on behalf of the voucher cause.
However, the majority of African Americans and D.C. residents oppose vouchers. In local Washington, D.C., a 1981 referendum lead over 80% of D.C. residents to vote the way of every other community throughout the country ever presented with a voucher ballot measure, and rejected vouchers. As recently as November of 2002, D.C. residents repeated their rejection of vouchers in favor of funding for public schools in a National School Boards/Zogby International report.
Voucher advocacy organizations have enjoyed the financial backing of well-funded organizations that receive financial support from organizations such as the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation has been associated with anti-affirmative action law suits, including the Michigan University case.
Some problems with the D.C. voucher proposals.
Fiscal Impact Not Measured.
The D.C. voucher plans in Congress fail to detail the fiscal impact of a voucher plan on the D.C. public schools. For every 30 students taken from the system and sent to private schools with vouchers, critical staff and local and federal funds will be lost from their neighborhood public schools. The voucher plan will draw sorely needed dollars away from the choices in our system now and curtail, not enhance choice in our public schools.
Meeting the accountability mandates of the NCLB law by some estimates will cost D.C. approximately $9 million, which puts improvements in public schools in direct competition with this new voucher plan whose estimated cost is roughly the same as the NCLB mandate.
D.C. Schools Will Have Trouble Meeting the new NCLB requirements.
If D.C. can not adequately fund the NCLB mandates such as improving teacher training, and raising student achievement, schools will not improve and students will lose. Just at the proposal stage alone we see that the goal is to force out public schools, not encourage them to improve. D.C. students will become the casualties of a crusade to impose vouchers at all costs" said Melody Webb, leader of Stop D.C. Vouchers, a D.C. parent-led initiativestarted by the D.C.P.S. parent who is a D.C. attorney and DCPS graduate mobilizing supporters of public schools that oppose vouchers in D.C..
Senate legislation to create school vouchers: S. 1583
As of Wednesday November 26, 2003. NEWS!!!!
The full House of Representatives last night, Sept. 9, approved school vouchers by one vote while 38 African American members attended a presidential debate in Baltimore.
See status of D.C. voucher plans