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Letter to the Senate Opposing any Amendments to the DC House Voting Rights Act

February 25, 2009

Dear Senator:


We would like to express our deep concern regarding reports of a potential amendment to the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 (S.160) that would seek to extend the District of Columbia private school voucher program.  We strongly urge you to VOTE NO on any such amendment.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

As we indicated in our letter earlier this week, NEA supports S.160 and we are pleased with the bipartisan approach to expanding democratic rights to all under- and unrepresented American citizens embodied in the legislation.  A voucher amendment has no place in this bill. 

Vouchers are the wrong choice for strengthening public schools.  The DC voucher program, which is set to expire this year, has been a failure.  Over the five year span of the program, its effectiveness has not been proven and it is clear that the funding could have been spent in far more useful ways to serve all students in the DC public schools.  In fact, the program has yielded no evidence of a positive impact on student achievement. 

  • A 2007 U.S. Government Accountability Office report found pervasive administrative and accountability problems in the program, undermining fiscal and operational integrity.
  • GAO found, for example, that the program supports private schools that do not charge tuition and schools that use unqualified teachers – some do not have even bachelor’s degrees. 
  • In 2008, a study by the Department of Education found that students in the D.C. voucher program generally did no better on reading and math tests after two years than their public school peers.
     
    Real education reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise teacher pay to attract and retain the best teachers.  Rather than offering a chance for a few, we should be ensuring that every child has access to a great public school. 

Again, we strongly urge you to oppose any amendment that may be offered to the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act that would add private school vouchers or extend/expand the existing DC voucher program. 

Sincerely,

Diane Shust
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advcacy