Senate launches D.C. voucher program

Jan. 25, 2004, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 4 months ago

Bill draws support and criticism from politicians

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from The Washington Post article D.C. School Vouchers Win Final Approval by Spencer S. Hsu and Justin Blum.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Jan. 22 allocating $14 million for a federally-funded school voucher program that will give a number of D.C. students the opportunity to attend private schools, according to The Washington Post. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

Under the law, the federal government will grant at least 1,700 low-income D.C. students up to $7,500 each to attend private schools. The program will begin a five-year experiment funded by the federal government, reported the Post. The experiment will be carefully studied by education analysts, and Secretary of Education Rod Paige and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams will establish an organization to run the program.

According to the Post, school voucher programs have already been established in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado, but the D.C. program will be the first to be funded by the federal government and the only one to be run by the Department of Education.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington will be among the private schools to participate in the voucher program and is expected to be able to accept over 1,300 students this fall. Other private schools chose to hold off on making a decision about their participation until after the bill was passed.

The recent bill has faced both encouragement and opposition from politicians. Advocates for the D.C. program maintained that families, who will now have a choice between public, private and charter schools, would benefit from school vouchers. Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, called the establishment of the D.C. voucher program "the biggest education accomplishment in this city in 20 years."

Williams likewise expressed his support of the program. "I have confidence in the wisdom of parents to make the best choices for their children's education," he said to the Post. "It's the government's job to provide the options."
However, Williams' support came as a surprise to many and drew much criticism. Opponents to the program asserted that public schools would suffer because of the money diverted to fund school vouchers, said The Washington Post. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) pledged to try to repeal the bill and give the money to public schools. "Even after this vote, don't bank on vouchers coming to D.C.," Kennedy told the Post.

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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