A House Appropriations subcommittee voted yesterday to extend funding for another year to a school voucher program in the District of Columbia, despite two consecutive reports from the U.S. Department of Education that showed little to no improvement in the academic performance of students receiving the vouchers.
The measure will move to the full Appropriations Committee next week, and we at Americans United hope members of Congress will decide to put the money where it rightfully belongs -- into the public schools.
For the past five years, children from low-income families in D.C. have received federally funded vouchers (up to $7,500 per student per year) to attend religious or other private schools. The "Opportunity Scholarship" program is scheduled to expire in 2008, but is currently slated to receive $18 million to extend the voucher program for another year.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, which was just released last week, students receiving the vouchers and attending private schools are performing the same on reading and math tests as students who have remained in the public school system. In 2007, the DOE's report found the same.
The voucher scheme is a favorite of President George W. Bush, and he has requested additional funding for the program every year since it began in 2004. In fact, Bush's FY 2007 budget even proposed $100 million to create federal voucher programs nationwide.
The program does nothing to improve education, and it raises constitutional and civil rights issues as well. It seems it is time to put it to rest.
"[T]he very rationale of the program has been proven to be a failure," Marc Egan, director of federal affairs for the National School Boards Association, told www.cnsnews.com. "We think the money that the Bush administration wants to spend on the voucher program would be better invested in public schools."
And that makes sense. If the program isn't working and it raises serious civil liberties questions, why spend another dime on it? The program undermines the public school system, does not improve education and gives federal funds to religious schools that do not comply with federal civil rights laws nor face public accountability.
Those are the facts we're hoping the Appropriations Committee will remember when they consider whether to fund the program for next year.