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Letter to the Democrats in the House and Senate on DC Vouchers

March 05, 2009

Dear Senator:

The National Education Association strongly opposes any extension of the District of Columbia private school voucher (“DC Opportunity Scholarship”) program.  We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program.  Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

Vouchers are not real education reform.  Pulling 1,200 children out of a system that serves 65,000 doesn’t solve problems – it ignores them.  Real reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise 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. 

Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA.  Throughout its history, NEA has strongly opposed any diversion of limited public funds to private schools.  The more than 10,000 delegates who attend NEA’s national convention each year have consistently reaffirmed this position.  In numerous letters to Congress, we have made clear our position and rationale: vouchers do little, if anything, to improve student achievement. 

The DC voucher pilot program, which is set to expire this year, has been a failure.  Over its five year span, the pilot program has yielded no evidence of 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 (District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program: Additional Policies and Procedures Would Improve Internal Controls and Program Operations, 
  • 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.  (School Choice Demonstration Project: Washington, DC Opportunity Scholarship Program Research,

Particularly following the last two election cycles, it would be unconscionable for Congress to extend the ill-conceived DC voucher program over the objections of NEA and the tens of thousands of NEA members who toiled long and hard to elect a pro-public education Congress.  We strongly urge you to oppose any further extension of this pilot program. 


Dennis Van Roekel