January 2004 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The U.S. House of Representatives approved in early December an expansive spending bill laden with pork-barrel projects and a voucher program for religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia.

The omnibus spending package, adopted by a 242-175 vote, includes a provision setting aside $14 million for a pilot voucher program. The scheme, if enacted into law, would provide vouchers worth up to $7,500 to pay for tuition for some students to attend religious and other private schools. U.S. Education Secretary Roderick Page would appoint a private organization to administer the plan.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has urged defeat of the D.C. school voucher proposal, decried the House's vote and called on the Senate to remove it from the $328-billion spending package.

"Voucher schemes divert scarce dollars from our public school system to private religious schools," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, in a press statement issued shortly after House approval of the spending bill. "They are bad for religion, bad for public education and bad for the taxpayers."

The Senate announced it would not consider the spending bill until it returned from holiday recess on Jan. 20.