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Legislative Action Center
Policy Information Center
UPDATE (November 17, 2003): Republican members of the House and the Senate have created a plan to ensure the passage of a school voucher program in Washington, D.C. Money budgeted for the vouchers has been attached to the $5.6 billion 2004 District budget which cannot be amended. With its passage, the only way the money can be taken away from the voucher program would be for money to be depleted from other federal government programs. In other words, if the Democrats get rid of vouchers, they'll be sacrificing many of their other favorite government programs as well.
After Democrats waged a five-day filibuster, GOP leaders withdrew last month the D.C. school voucher program. Unless the Democrats mount a filibuster that would shut down the District or many federal government operations, the Senate Republicans have settled on a plan to lead a passage of the voucher program within the next two weeks.
Originally, as part of the District of Columbia Appropriation Act, (H.R. 2765) [To view: Full text of legislation] the Senate is debating a federal school voucher program for the District. If necessary, Republicans are prepared to remove the voucher provision from the D.C. budget and during a House-Senate conference committee on the legislation reinsert the language. Also, during conference talks, Republicans (as the majority party) could attach the District budget to a bundle of other remaining federal appropriations bills.
After it returns to the full Senate for final passage the legislation cannot be amended under Senate rules.
To receive a private education, funded children are accepted by a school and can pay any expenses not covered by the maximum $7,500 voucher annually. The measure would provide $13 million for at least 1,700 poor children in the District of Columbia.
If the bill limited vouchers to students in failing schools, it requires that schools accept voucher students without charging extra tuition and ensures that schools demonstrate the same annual progress as required for public schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Senators Mary Landrieu (Democrat-Louisiana) and Thomas Carper (Democrat-Delaware) offered to support the measure.
Washington students scored at or near the bottom in most areas according to a U.S. Department of Education analysis of big-city schools in June despite spending $12,000 annually per student, which is a third higher than the national average. Furthermore, three out of four fourth graders could not do basic math and seven out of ten lacked basic reading skills.
School choice programs have demonstrated nationally that students can achieve academically when parents are given an opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice. One way to reverse the continuing trend of deteriorating performance of D.C. schools is allowing these parents to have the opportunity of school choice.
What Can You Do?
Urge your senators and representative TO SUPPORT the D.C. School Voucher Program
Capitol Hill Switchboard Numbers: 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121 (Those numbers will direct you to the Capitol Hill operator. Ask for your senator's and representative's office.)
To go to your senators' websites, find their E-mail or to find out who your senators are... http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm
To go to your representative's website, find his E-mail or to find out who your representatives are... http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.html .
To electronically mail your U.S. House of Representative, go to http://www.house.gov/htbin/wrep_findrep .
The Honorable (full name)
Dear Senator (last name):
The Honorable (full name)
Dear Representative (last name):