ACTION: House of Representatives to Vote on School Voucher Program
VOTE MAY OCCUR AS EARLY AS TUESDAY, 3/29/2011 ON EXPANDING A PILOT PROGRAM IN D.C. THAT WAS SLATED TO END IN 2008
As early as Tuesday, March 29, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R, 471, the mis-named Scholarships for Opportunities and Results Act. The NAACP is vigorously opposed to this legislation which extends and expands a pilot program of school vouchers in the District of Columbia which began in 2003 and was set to expire in 2008. We stand against H.R. 471 due to the fact that the 5 year pilot program in D.C. was, by all accounts, a failure; neither the majority of D.C. residents nor their democratically elected representatives want the program; and due to our underlying opposition to school vouchers.
The NAACP has consistently supported investments in our public schools that will benefit all students, not just potentially a few. School vouchers do not offer a collective benefit. Vouchers take critical resources away from our neighborhood public schools, the very schools that are attended by the vast majority of African American students. Furthermore, private and parochial schools are not required to observe federal nondiscrimination laws even if they receive federal funds through voucher programs. In fact, many voucher proposals often contain language specifically intended to circumvent civil rights laws, and many proponents insist voucher funding does not flow to the school but instead to the parent or student precisely to avoid any civil rights obligations. This specificity in language allows private institutions to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, disability and language proficiency – and even merit, again, despite the fact that they are receiving taxpayer funds.
In addition to our philosophical opposition to vouchers overall, the NAACP is opposed to an expansion of the D.C. voucher program as established by H.R. 471 because of its ineffectiveness, and the fact that it is a classic example of Congress overriding the wishes of the District’s democratically elected officials. All five of the federal studies that have analyzed the existing program, which would be expanded under H.R. 471, concluded that the program is ineffective, and in some cases have led to an abuse of taxpayers’ money. Specifically, Department of Education studies have concluded that the voucher program has had no effect on the academic achievement of students who use vouchers. Federal studies have also demonstrated an alarming number of accountability shortcomings in the program. Examples include federal taxpayer dollars funding tuition at private schools that do not even charge tuition, schools that lacked city occupancy permits, and schools employing teachers without bachelor’s degrees or certifications.
Our opposition to the D.C. voucher program is further compounded by the fact it is not supported by the majority of the District’s residents, and is a classic example of Congress overriding the wishes of the District’s democratically elected officials. The Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent C. Gray, said it best, perhaps, when he said “Decisions about educational options in the District of Columbia ought to be made at the state and local level just as those choices are made across this nation.