See here for the status of the D.C. voucher push!
page is a work in progress. New questions will be added over
time and answers may be revised to reflect new information
about the effort to institute private school vouchers in
Washington D.C. If you have a question,
please submit it to us
and it may be included in our q & a page below.)
there are so many ads on television and the radio suggesting
that the voucher movement is grassroots. Don't these ads
reflect that vouchers are what the black community of D.C.
Response: The African American community is not a monolith so
it is ill-advised to speculate on what the 'black community'
wants. Moreover, in a 1981 referendum on vouchers, the
predominantly African American Washington, D.C. rejected
vouchers by 8 to 1. In November 2002 an NSBA/Zogby
survey confirmed these results.
expensive and often slick ads promoting vouchers are the
clearest sign that the pro-voucher movement is not a
in prime markets at prime time, and this belies the claim that
this indicates the existence of a populist movement for
vouchers. The people alone do not have that kind
of money. Ironically, one big funder of D.C. Parents for
School Choice - the Bradley Foundation -
also funds suits challenging affirmative
action. The Bradley
Foundation, through grants to D.C. Parents, purports to
support educational choice for black children through
vouchers, but then would take away educational choice from
black children in their university years by destroying
affirmative inclusion programs at the post-secondary level of
Question: Vouchers are
another opportunity to escape a poor performing school, so why
should a parent wait for improvements that have been promised
in the public school system for several decades?
Response: Evidence seriously challenges the notion that
vouchers provide a real opportunity out of a poor quality
educational system. We do not know that the educational
opportunities afforded by the vouchers are better than the
options in the public schools. Likely, we won't know
because private schools do not have to report test scores or
performance levels of their students.
Although D.C. needs many more of its model and
charter schools, the existing ones provide many choices for
excellent educational opportunities in our D.C. system of
public schools. We have over 40 charter schools,
transformation schools, and a variety of model public programs
accessible through the out-of-boundary enrollment process
Model programs abound in
DCPS: Brent Elementary School in Ward 6, S.E., Banneker
Academic Senior High, a magnet, citywide program, Jefferson
Junior High School science and math program in S.W., Oyster
Elementary with its immersion program, Merritt Elementary,
etc.. We need more of these and in our low wealth
districts of the city. But they exist and we should improve
the system by creating more of these and imposing the
standards that these programs use to all of the schools in the
We have reason, in fact to question the quality of some of the
schools within price range of the proposed vouchers. Many of
the Catholic schools which would be affordable with the
low-value voucher are shutting down left and right, likely as
a reflection of the decreased demand for their educational
Let's remember that the proposed tuition voucher amount will
likely not cover most of the costs of these private schools.
The most likely beneficiaries of these vouchers are the very
private and parochial schools that are financially ailing.
Don't students with vouchers outperform their peers who remain
behind in public schools?
The GAO report issued in the fall of 2002 indicates that
children show no statistically significant achievement gains
from enrollment in voucher programs over those in public school. What is
more is that while the new education reform bill - No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB) - has established all kinds of
accountability measures for public schools, these same
measures would not apply to students in private schools with
publicly funded vouchers. Here is an excerpt from NCLB,
signed into law by the same Bush Administration that requires
this extensive accountability by public schools.
These standards for the public won't apply to private schools
attended with vouchers.
"The NCLB Act will be requiring States to
implement statewide accountability systems covering all public
schools and students. These systems must be based on
challenging State standards in reading and mathematics, annual
testing for all students in grades 3-8, and annual statewide
progress objectives ensuring that all groups of students reach
proficiency within 12 years. Assessment results and State
progress objectives must be broken out
by poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and limited English
proficiency to ensure that no group is left behind. School
districts and schools that fail to make adequate yearly
progress (AYP) toward statewide proficiency goals
will, over time, be subject to improvement, corrective action,
and restructuring measures aimed at getting them back on
course to meet State standards. Schools that meet or exceed AY
objectives or close achievement
gaps will be eligible for State Academic Achievement Awards."
Public schools must now meet the above and certain teacher
Private schools are not required to meet the same standards.
We can not trust private schools to voluntarily subject
themselves to these standards.
There are numerous model schools in the public school system
of D.C. -
why not fully fund NCLB and put the money into replicating
schools like Oyster, Banneker, Montessori programs in the
poorest neighborhoods? Why not put the money
into teacher training and smaller class sizes?
Studies in Cleveland which has had private school vouchers for
some time, have actually shown that public school students
performed a bit better than students with private school
vouchers. According to studies of the program
in Milwaukee, there has been little evidence that this scheme
will actually improve the public schools by making them more
Why shouldn't vouchers be
available to the middle class as well as the poor? Isn't this
a way to give African Americans of all backgrounds a a
desperately needed shot at a better education for their
If people favor this voucher initiative being extended to
middle income parents, then we are essentially moving toward a
completely privatized school system. Private schools are not
required to admit children who apply to them - this
means that the most vulnerable groups - African American,
non-English speakers, members of disfavored religious groups,
and disabled children will face discrimination, and unlike in
public schools - they are not accountable
to the public for it. We can complain and gripe and target
with email campaigns and publicize to the media - all the
wrongs and evils of our public schools systems and keep our
kids in public schools. We can complain and gripe, and well,
private schools have no such obligation to keep our children.
Historically, and just look at the Michigan University case,
it is the public sector, the government where minorities and
vulnerable groups have been able to hold society accountable
for equal treatment, equal access for its vulnerable groups.
Now we want to trust the private sector to monitor itself?
Where is the justification for that?
In the Michigan affirmative action case, we are beating back
an attack on affirmative action - on using public dollars to
foster inclusion of vulnerable groups; so even the public
sector is under attack in its efforts to admit vulnerable
colleges and law schools. If our public institutions are
under attack in their effort to be inclusive, it is looking
like soon we won't be able to look to the public, state-run
institutions to advance the rights and opportunities of the
If the public sector is under attack (Michigan State) for
trying to include minorities in its educational system in the
greatest numbers, and the public institutions have a mandate
to include us and are accountable, the private sector promises
nightmarish results for historically excluded groups. If the
public safety net for the disadvantaged is being ripped to
shreds and it is accountable, surely it is ill advised to put
our trust in the private sector, which is not accountable.
That is what the civil rights movement was all
about, making society accountable for its treatment of
minorities and the vulnerable. The voucher programs attack
that accountability and strike right at the heart of all our
civil rights gains.- stripping away the requirement that the
schools do the right thing by us.
Also, private schools have no requirement to give children the
services they need. In fact, a report released by the
Government Accounting Office just last year indicated that
children in private voucher programs tend to leave
at a 20% rate in part for the very reason that they do not
receive the wraparound services that public schools provide
directly or give children easy access to. Also, the cost of
emergencies and other fees related to
private schools are often not covered by school vouchers.
have a question you would like answered, or if you have
comments on one of our answers,
let us know.