All things scurrilous happen in the dark of
night: The House approves by one vote the voucher bill
Members attend scheduled Congressional Black Caucus
presidential debate. by Melody Webb, Esq.
September 10, 2003
How is that for a mandate? All
supporters of D.C. voucher legislation in Congress claim that
the bill reflects a mandate in Washington D.C. and among
largely African American school districts around the country.
We know that D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the
District's non-voting Member, rejects the bill for her
district. What the timing of this bill shows is that there is
no mandate among Congressional black leaders and some
presidential candidates in the House of Representatives. The
leadership had so little confidence in their ability to pass
the legislation that they held the vote in the dark of night
during the scheduled absence of the members who have a vote
and who oppose school vouchers. Just last night, the
Congressional Black Caucus resoundingly cheered Senator John
Edwards' statement rejecting school vouchers.
How unjust that the non-voting
member of congress, Del. Norton is not allowed to vote on the
legislation that affects her constituents. How scurrilous
that key voting members of Congress were left out of the vote
that will likely affect their constituents should the voucher
bill pass for D.C. Today D.C., tomorrow Congress
will implement in African American inner city districts all
over the country.
For shame, for shame - that the
leadership of the House pushing vouchers would shut out the
presidential candidates and African Americans who are members
of Congress in order to advance their national voucher
agenda. Sadly, if the false fix of vouchers passes for D.C.
and marches across the country, Congress would leave behind
60,000 of the District's children and millions of children
the House: the House moves closer to passing vouchers
and the Senate prepares to consider its version of the bill,
both doing for D.C.
would not for its own districts. September 7,
2003, Melody Webb Esq.
The U.S. House's preliminary
approval of a voucher plan for D.C. is an abomination of
unconstitutional proportions. Unlike anywhere else in the
country, D.C. residents lack political power to prevent
congressional control over its local education
programs. Congress this year voted against vouchers for its
own districts under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, but would institute them in D.C.. Senator
Feinstein vowed not to support vouchers for California, but
does for D.C.. As in the commuter tax case in which I am one
of the plaintiffs, we D.C. residents are victims of unequal
The argument in that case,
as in this, is that we have no representation in the same
legislature that now ignores our will and seeks to
intermeddle in our local policymaking. Here Congress
would impose a voucher white elephant on our education
system; in the commuter tax case, Congress bans us from
taxing the income of nonresidents at its source - D.C. -
unlike any other place in the country. Should lawmakers
pass this voucher plan into law, Congress will deny D.C.'s
children what other children across the country have - the
right for their parents to direct what happens in their
education system. As a parent in the D.C. public schools
system, I say on behalf of our parents, we won't stand for
it; if Congress ignores our will and passes this law, it
could signal the need to join this with the nonresident
income tax case by taking this issue to the courts for real
Progressives Abandon the Disadvantaged in Favor of School
August 24, 2003 Melody Webb, Esq.
Name them: Peggy Cooper Cafritz, both a Cafritz
philanthropist and D.C.'s School Board President, D.C. Mayor
Anthony Williams, the Washington Post, California's
Senator Dianne Feinstein, and columnist E.J. Dionne. Mr.
Dionne, of the liberal Brookings Institution, is the latest in
a line of progressive thinkers, activists and elected
officials who are washing their hands of the tradition of
equal opportunity for all that public education enshrines.
They do it in the name of giving a potential solution a try.
These are the people whom we count on to explore, debate,
test, and implement reforms to the systems of public
Their reaction these days to the challenges offered by
public education: to employ taxpayer subsidies for private
schools. They would start with the public schools of our
nation's capital and from there ransack public education
across the country. The former champions of the same, now
turn their backs on the majority of disadvantaged children
whom public schools will always have the responsibility of
Public education systems, especially of inner cities, have
long been plagued by complex problems that leave unfulfilled
the promise of self-advancement for the disadvantaged. It is
the good fight to struggle to hone and manage and craft the
best education possible for all of society's children. To
toil mightily for this is critical if this country is to
overcome some of its biggest racial and socioeconomic
injustices. To achieve this we must not give up on public
education by turning to private school vouchers.
It is the responsibility of the progressive and activist
communities to explore the solutions to failing public schools
and to vigorously implement them in a way that fixes the
schools - not abandons them. When the Washington Post abandons
all pretense of good journalistic reporting on the issue of
school vouchers – now the single greatest challenge facing
public schools - the progressive crusade for public education
suffers a damaging blow.
The Washington Post is a voice of the community of D.C. to
the community and to the nation. What the Post reports on the
issue of vouchers is paramount; it should reflect what is
happening in the local D.C. community for the both the
community and the entire world to see. That is real
journalism. Black Americans rely upon black radio as their
media of choice and thanks to Radio One, the majority of black
radio - the vehicle with most potential for informing and
activating grassroots civic engagement - provides no news.
This makes the burden on the Post to tell the entire story of
an issue such as this that much greater.
When the Washington Post abandons its mission of separating
out its editorial board's support for vouchers from its
reporting on vouchers – the progressive cause is lost. The
Post has yet to thoroughly examine the impact that vouchers
might have on the city's public's school system. When the
Washington Post abandons its mission of exploring the
community perspective on school vouchers, even as community
members mobilize to fight vouchers - we are lost. When the
Washington Post fails to measure community reaction against
the backdrop of the U.S. Congress and the city’s mayor acting
unilaterally to create and support a voucher program,
respectively – the cause is lost. This, in a city where the
local government’s legislative and fiscal governance are
subject to oversight by the U.S. Congress. To fail to tell
the entire political story (D.C. resident's side) in this very
political war over vouchers - oh, is the cause lost.
Why are the progressives giving up? Is it because they have
avoided the surest way of fixing the public school systems of
large inner cities like
and they feel guilty about that? Is it hypocritical to stop
the few poor would-be recipients of vouchers from doing what
they do for their own children: opt for a pricey private
school education? Here is an idea: forget about vouchers as
a fix. Instead hold progressives to the test of real support
for education for the poor – challenge them to send their own
children to public schools. That would be a real investment
in the nation’s troubled public schools: the influence,
brainpower, and financial resources of the elite.
In fact, let’s have the nation’s elite conservative voucher
proponents direct their kids to down-and-out embattled public
schools as well. Parental involvement determines the success
of kids and their schools. Maybe we need more of the elite
thinkers from both sides of the aisle involved in the public
schools to improve them. All would-be public education
reformers need to be made to put their children where their
mouths are. That will improve public education far more
quickly than school vouchers will. Let's get to the job of
defeating this voucher plan here and now! We don't have the
time, the children, or the future to waste.
Feinstein'? Governor Gray Davis' Recall and D.C. Vouchers.
July 29, 2003
There are rumors afoot that Senator Feinstein
is considering a run for the seat of Governor Gray Davis
should he be run out of office in a recall election.
This would certainly give greater credence to our belief that
Senator Feinstein's change of heart on vouchers (to support
them) reflects her desire to generate support among
conservative voters in California. In this case, she
wants their vote not for a return to her own seat - up in 2006
- but for the office of her fellow Democrat, Governor Gray
Davis. D.C. politics are never just about politics in
D.C.. Until Washington, D.C. residents have real,
unmitigated democracy - full voting rights in the House and
Senate and complete control over policy and laws affecting
everything from its schools to its commuter employees, what
happens to D.C. residents will always be subject to events
happening somewhere else in the country.
letter from Jack O'Connell, the California Department of
Education Superintendent of Public Instruction asking Sen.
Feinstein to oppose the voucher plan incorporated in the D.C.
Is The Governor
Gray Davis Recall Driving the
Defection by Sen. Feinstein?
Are California politics holding the D.C.
Appropriations bill hostage? Inasmuch as California politics
Senator Feinstein (D- CA) to defect from her Democratic
colleagues and support vouchers for D.C. - maybe so. That
is how one might see Senator Feinstein's new-found
consideration of vouchers as the saving grace of public
education in D.C.. Senator Dianne Feinstein has rocked the
liberal establishment by becoming the swing vote on a voucher
program for local Washington, D.C.., abandoning not one but
two traditionally Democratic stances in the process. Sadly,
she may be driven by internal California politics, in which
liberal Democrat Gray Davis is facing a recall challenge that
may actually unseat him in favor of a conservative
politician. The message coming from California through this
muscular campaign to oust Governor Davis is that
liberals are out; conservatives - in.
Senator Feinstein is midway through her term -
but it is never too soon to entertain reelection concerns.
And although Californians resoundingly defeated school
voucher ballot initiatives in 1993 and 2000, politics have
changed in California since then. Californians are for the
first time ever subjecting their governor to a recall vote..
Could the political winds of California be blowing the Senator
to this new conservative position? Not only is she abandoning
her long-time opposition to private school vouchers in
considering support of a program that the GAO has given anemic
reviews. By embracing school vouchers, she is also cutting
herself loose from her long time support of self-government
for congressionally overseen Washington, D.C. Local D.C.
does not want vouchers. The popular D.C. Councilmembers
Adrian Fenty (D - DC - 4), Phil Mendelson (D- D.C.- at-large),
and Council Chair Linda Cropp, as well as a majority of the
D.C. School Board (in a 2002 resolution) have come out against
vouchers, echoing the overwhelming numbers of D.C. residents,
who when polled in November 2002, confirmed the 1981
referendum outcome in which they rejected public subsidies for
parochial and private schools. Yet again local D.C. policy is
being driven by outside forces. Where is democracy when we
So, it could be that because Congress has
direct authority to institute federal programs in D.C. without
local D.C.'s consent, Californians are having a bigger say in
our local education policy than we D.C. residents have. What
do politics in California have to do with the price of tea in
D.C.? Maybe everything. If only we could recall our
governors - the U.S. Congress who runs D.C..
Really Holding Up The D.C. Approriations Bill in Congress?
Shame on the Washington
Post. Their reporting on the voucher issue is
shamelessly biased. The latest example of it: the story,
the Senate Appropriations committee stand-off of yesterday
that shows blatant spin to support your agenda favoring
vouchers. You did not report on what happened. You
characterized it. And you have it all wrong. So please,
let's set the record straight - let's look at who is
actually blocking a 'clean' D.C. budget, as was passed by
the Council and approved by the Mayor. That's right - the
conservative ideologues - largely the Republicans. The
supporters of public ed who are fighting this voucher
'rider' are the champions doing the right thing for D.C. -
trying to keep the budget bill true to its purpose: funding
expenditures that D.C. - through its elected officials - has
spent lots of sweat, tears, critical services and jobs
It is dangerous for us to allow the Post's spin on this to
go unchallenged, leaving an insidious and incorrect
impression of what is happening. The Post implies -and we
know that media influence is huge - that Senate Democrats
are the enemies of home rule, of budget priorities that we
have expressed vis-a-vis tying up the D.C. budget in
'Foes Halting the Vote' (title of this article) on the
budget bill - meaning the Democrats opposed to the voucher
add-on.? Puh - leez. The real foes are those rascals
trying to tell us that we need a program that has been
rejected by D.C. voters in a 1981 referendum, in a poll as
recently as November of 2002. The real foes are those
scoundrels who want to impose an experiment that does not
work, that wants to subsidize private and parochial schools
and foster discrimination on religious grounds as well as be
exempt from the requirements to educate special needs
children as appropriate.
The real foes are those who would exempt their voucher
program schools from the same mandates that they now impose
upon the very public schools which Bush's No Child Left
Behind law is supposed to fix and which they are now cutting
off at the knees by underfunding. The real foes are those
who would in good conscience fashion an unconscionable and
unjust solution to our public ed woes that would serve 2,000
children and leave the vast majority behind (approximately
78,000 in D.C.'s traditional and charter schools).
Let's not forget who the real foes are of getting passed a
budget critical to one of the nation's poorest, most-HIV
infected, most poorly housed people in the country, most
crime victimized community in the world. Those who read the
post for unbiased reporting will hopefully not walk away
from this article thinking that they have just the facts;
because indeed they have is your poorly concealed agenda.
Vouchers Applauds The Expected Cropp-Fenty
Resolution Opposing Vouchers
Residents to Continue the 250 email/petition push and Flood
Council with Calls Supporting No Deal To Swap Voucher
Approval for Public Schools Funding.
D.C. -- Staff in the offices of both D.C. Council Chair
Linda Cropp (D- At large) and Councilmember Adrian Fenty (D-
Ward 4) today indicated that the two Councilmembers are
expected tomorrow, Tuesday, July 8, to co-introduce an
anti-voucher sense-of-the-council resolution in the
Council's final legislative session of the year.
D.C. Vouchers applauds
this move by the Council.
democracy in action and given the congressional mark-up of
the voucher bill this week, it is a sound strategic move
that should leave Congress in no doubt as to how
D.C. residents feel about
school vouchers. Rep. Davis, by pushing this voucher
bill, is ignoring D.C.'s 1981 referendum against vouchers
and ignoring the polls of late 2002 that reflect D.C.
residents' opposition to vouchers. if and when the
Council voices the will of the people by approving the Cropp-Fenty
resolution - Mr. Davis and Congress will have to pay
attention and drop their incessant push for school vouchers
in D.C. Three cheers for the real representatives of the
people - Councilmembers Cropp and Fenty" stated Melody Webb,
a DCPS parent who runs Stop D.C. Vouchers, a grass-roots and
online effort to organize residents to fight the attempted
institution of vouchers in D.C.. Ms. Webb is an attorney who
works to reform the D.C. public schools.
Vouchers urges officials to reject any deals that are
offered to grant funds for public schools in exchange for
city official's support of any taxpayer-funded private
school tuition grants plan by Congress. Recent news reports
indicate that Councilmember Chavous (D - Ward 7), one of
three local officials publicly on record in support of
vouchers, will support an anti-voucher resolution in the
Council. However, Councilmember Chavous is expected to
oppose vouchers only for as long as Congress fails to
include in its plan dollars for the city's public
traditional and charter schools. "There should be no quid
pro quo. City officials must do right by our children and
reject any deal that includes vouchers. If vouchers are bad
in a voucher-only plan; then they are bad in a voucher plus
public school funding scheme. Bad is bad. Period." stated
Davis and Voting Rights for D.C.? Voting Rights As a Smokescreen for their National
Agenda To Spread
Vouchers Using The Test Case of Disenfranchised Washington,
D.C. July 7, 2003
School Voucher Push: Solutions -
In the context of the struggle to stop the voucher push
in D.C., readers of themail (a local D.C. online
have written eloquently of the unfair comparison between
the performance of D.C. school students (residents of a
poor central city) and those students in cities and states
with a vastly more varied demographic makeup than that
of Washington. Themail contributors have made a wonderful
new commitment to exploring solutions to match problems
discussed in themail. A solution to this particular
continued assault on D.C. schools and students is for us
all to get moreinvolved in the debate on an issue critical
to the future of D.C. school students -private school
vouchers. What an affront this push is by the Republican
Rep. Tom Davis (R- Va) and President George Bush to impose
their solution to D.C.'s public education problem, at the
expense of D.C. self-governance.
hypocritical that Mr. Davis now wants to give us a single
vote in Congress (representational democracy) when he would
ignore the 1981 referendum and opinion polls of D.C.
residents rejecting vouchers (self governance democracy)!)
Rep. Davis and
company have lately been nobly busy working on behalf of
D.C.'s residents. In the span of a few weeks, Rep. Davis
has introduced a new congressional D.C. voucher bill (Rep.
Flake (R- Arizona) was the author of the first House
voucher plan of this 108th Congress); he has inflicted the
federal backstab to the Mayor in the process (the feds had
promised money for the public charter and traditional
schools to accompany the Mayor's new-found support for
vouchers). Mr. Davis has held a hearing on the voucher
and his markup will happen sometime next week. What a fast
track! Just yesterday - Tuesday - Pres. Bush used a local
public charter school as the backdrop to reinvigorate the
unpopular plank of his national education
platform (vouchers) to promote the same for D.C..
Vouchers comprise the Republican party's solution for our
local public education problem. If we want solutions -
how about Republicans fully fund the federal special
education mandate, which is nationally about 22% below
what was promised 30 years ago?
How about fund
the federal Bush's own No Child Left Behind mandates for
ensuring accountability through teacher training and
student testing, but was under-funded by $6 billion last
year and so far in the House this year now is $9
billionshort. Lest we be fooled about the President's
intent on behalf of D.C. public school students, of which
my children are two, there is no extra money for our
public schools in the President's budget.
I have written
before about this issue, and many have done their
research and taken action. Superb. What can you do about
this exploitation of ourdisenfranchisement to impose a
privatization scheme on our public schools,
against our will? Let's keep up the good work by signing a
petition at www.stopdcvouchers.org/petition.htm
and by emailing, Mr. Mayor, Mr.Davis, Ms. Cafritz, and
asking the Council to sponsor a resolution against vouchers
Thank our championon this issue, Mr. Fenty also. Look out
for the mark-up of Davis' voucher plan, likely to happen
sometime next week in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Call for details and tell Rep. Davis to leave D.C.
their schools alone! Mr. Davis' number is 202-225-1492.
Mayor Gives Up on Public Education and Caves on Voting Rights
May 2, 2003
clear that this attempt to impose a voucher system is a
prime example of Congress' disdain for home rule, and an
example of why we need a vote in Congress, because whereas
everybody else in the country gets to choose whether to
use federal funds for vouchers or not, D.C residents have it
imposed on them.
Today, Eleanor Holmes Norton importuned all levels of
democracy to stand with her and said "don't forsake me" by
supporting this legislation. Those standing with her for
home rule and voting rights include Councilmembers Fenty,
Brazil and Mendelson, and various school board members. So,
it is shocking that less than three weeks after the Mayor
stood at Freedom Plaza and expressed his support for voting
rights and home rule that he has today come out in favor of
this voucher plan. It is a kick in the teeth to the
democracy movement. As a support of democracy, Delegate
Norton has been dumped first by Cafritz, and now by the
Mayor and Kevin Chavous.
Mayor is selling out home rule by accepting a quid pro
quo, namely that by accepting money for charter schools and
regular public schools he will support a voucher program.
He is saying that he will take this voucher plan which D.C.
does not want, if Congress gives money to the public
schools. The bottom line is that D.C voters rejected this
in a referendum in 1982, and recent opinion polls have
supported that same result. So, this is a sell-out, no
matter how you slice it. This plan did not originate in the
1997 the last time Congress tried to do this it took a
presidential veto to override it. So, we have to stop this
thing right now, because this president is not going to veto
preparing a press release condemning the Mayor's actions,
and calling him to task. I think that it is imperative that
as many democracy supporters as possible show a united front
on this, and so I would like to include quotes from you on
it. Please reply to me with your suggested text.
Another way to tell the Mayor that you disapprove of his
actions and encourage him to withdraw his support is to go
to this page - www.leavedc.com/vouchers.htm
- and send an email, or print out a letter to fax. That
page will include a letter to the Mayor by Friday morning.
As with all the letters on this site, you can modify the
text to say whatever you want. Again, please encourage all
your friends to do the same. And I wonder how he would
respond to getting lots of phone calls on this.
send you soon a flyer with details about the rally, at which
your presence is critical. This issue is a convergence of
education policy and voting rights. Let's pitch in as part
of the overall effort to stop Congress from having its way
with our city, and to show Congress and the nation the depth
of our feelings about this.
a crying shame that we have to be on the defensive like
this, warding off Congressional encroachments, and keeping
our own elected officials on the straight and narrow. Once
this speedbump is behind us, I hope we can all get back to
the collective progressive agenda of democracy.
Board President Takes A Wrong Turn In Choosing To Support
Vouchers April 20, 2003
In the letter
to the editor of Sat. April 19, 2003, D.C. School Board
President Peggy Cooper Cafritz clarifies her position on
federal voucher legislation and her reason for supporting
the Congressional plan (sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake
(R-AZ-6)) which would use 'new' money ($7 million in 2004)
to create a private foundation to administer school
tuition vouchers to children meeting a means test - up to
185% of the poverty line. Ms. Cafritz's rationale for her
change in stance on vouchers baffles and speaks volumes
about the plight of our school system. The head of the
entity charged with making policy for the D.C. schools has
not 'evolved' into her position favoring vouchers, as she
says in her letter. Ms. Cafritz has instead 'caved'.
She backs the voucher proposal principally because (1)she
believes that it is a fait accompli with a
Republican majority in Congress and in the White House -
.and because (2) she knows that parents are unhappy with
the public schools. Thankfully she stopped short of
actually pillorying the public schools herself to make her
support for vouchers is a vote of no confidence in the
public schools over which she presides. There are
some points of light in the D.C. Public Schools; we
recently completed DCPS' new lottery system to award slots
in some of the highly sought-after top flight schools that
do exist in DCPS. I am a DCPS parent and not the only
DCPS graduate to ever earn undergraduate and law degrees
from Harvard University. I am disappointed that Ms.
Cafritz chooses not to fight the power of the
Congressional-White House team, but instead caves to it
when she very well could help defeat the plan. A
Congressionally sponsored voucher measure was thwarted in
1998. In addition, I regret that Ms. Cafritz also fails
to address (and challenge) the merits of school vouchers
as a policy for delivering better educational value to
students over the traditional public schools or charter
schools. Vouchers use public money for private schools,
this money could be used to replicate those model public
schools of the DCPS that D.C. parents have stood in lines
in some cases for days to gain entrance to. Republicans
claim the voucher program funding is new; yet investment
in school vouchers is an inherent divestment from public
If she has
been swayed by one set of parental voices on this issue;
there is another set to hear. I, for one, as a DCPS
parent am mobilizing other parents through meetings and
online at www.LeaveDC.com
to fight this voucher initiative. This voucher plan is
being imposed by Congress, and is not by the way, a
product of grassroots legislative support in local
Washington, D.C. This is Congressional exploitation of
our disenfranchisement. Ms. Cafritz is wrong to concede
defeat to Congressman Jeff Flake, whose likely agenda with
vouchers is really to win Senator John McCain's seat in
2004 on a platform of promoting school choice. I urge all
willing to join me. We must not accept the inevitability
of the Republican attempt to impose vouchers on D.C. Our
pro- D.C. voting rights community and supporters of our
public schools must write Congress and Congress'
constituents to thwart this plan being forced on
our community. What a sad lesson in civics Ms. Cafritz is
teaching DCPS students by caving. What a sad display of
confidence in the public school system she is showing
current and future parents residing in D.C.. Let's join
together now to reverse this.
the Legislative Background of the DC voucher plans in Congress.
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