Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

House Approves Legislation for Vouchers in Nation's Capital

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

House Approves Legislation for Vouchers in Nation's Capital

Article excerpt

Senate to act on the measure in late January

The U.S. House of Representatives last month gave final approval to legislation for taxpayer-funded vouchers for students in the District of Columbia. The legislation, backed by President Bush, will allow students to attend private and parochial schools. The Senate is not expected to act on the measure until late January.

The school choice initiative passed by the House is limited to low-income students in Washington, D.C. Scholarships would be available only to children from households whose income is 185 percent of the poverty line or less. Priority would be given to students in schools identified as under-achieving under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Voting 242-176, the House approved the $328 million spending bill that includes private-school tuition aid for at least 1,700 students.

"Giving low-income parents a choice of where to send their children to school is really a matter of social justice," said Dr. Roderick Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, following the legislation's passage. "A child's educational circumstances should not be limited by a parent's income, skin color, dialect or zip code. It's just not fair to use the power of government to chain a child to a school that is not serving him or her well."

Groups such as the National Education Association (NEA) oppose the voucher legislation, saying, "Research clearly demonstrates that vouchers have little effect on improving student achievement. Vouchers, which offer no real 'choice' for the overwhelming majority of students, also go against the will of the D.C. electorate."

The proposal, however, approved as a part of the final FY2004 spending measure, includes a total of $40 million for D.C. parents, students and schools. Out of the $40 million:

* $13 million is provided for the D.C. school choice scholarship program, along with an additional $1 million for administrative expenses.

* $13 million is provided directly to the D.C. public schools for teacher training, teacher recruitment, and improving student achievement through supplemental educational services and public school choice. (This is in addition to the large increases the D.C. public schools have already been guaranteed under appropriations for the No Child Left Behind Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other federal programs. …

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