By Sandhya Bathija
In a few hours, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on whether to reauthorize a taxpayer-funded school voucher program.
Americans United has been working diligently to put a stop to H.R. 471, a measure introduced by House Speaker John Boehner that would allot $100 million over the next five years to restart and expand the failed voucher “experiment” in the District of Columbia.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama weighed in, announcing that he “strongly opposed” Boehner’s measure.
In an official statement of administration policy released Tuesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget said “the Administration opposes the creation or expansion of private school voucher programs that are authorized by this bill.”
The White House also argued that “[p]rivate school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement,” and that “the Administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.”
Obama is right. We’ve already tried vouchers in the nation’s capital and we know that the program has shown no improvement in student performance, lacks accountability, hurts public schools and subsidizes religious indoctrination with taxpayer funds.
Despite the fact that vouchers have failed, Boehner and the House seem likely pass the measure. It’s been clear that this isn’t about helping D.C.’s kids, but about a political ideology that opposes public education and church-state separation.
Through Boehner’s scheme, millions of dollars will be funneled to a very small percentage of D.C. kids for tuition at religious and other private schools.
What’s worse is Boehner has made it clear he wants the program to be a model for other states and cities across the nation.
We don’t want to see that happen. Taxpayers should never be forced to support religion; that violates the fundamental right of conscience. Eighty percent of students in the D.C. program used vouchers to attend religious schools that integrate doctrine throughout their curriculum.
While Obama has yet to state that he will veto the D.C. voucher bill if it comes before him, we hope that he does. Public schools serve the overwhelming majority of D.C.’s children. We should focus on improving these schools, not reinstituting a failed voucher scheme.
It’s not too late, tell your members of Congress to oppose D.C. vouchers NOW.