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Letter to the Senate Opposing the Ensign Amendment on DC Vouchers

March 03, 2009

Dear Senator:

We would like to express our deep opposition to an amendment to be offered by Senator Ensign to FY09 omnibus appropriations bill that would extend the District of Columbia private school voucher program.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

NEA strongly opposes the Ensign amendment.  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. 

We also urge you to oppose any amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill that would reduce proposed funding for education programs.  Any such amendments would threaten the essential resources provided for education under the proposed bill and jeopardize efforts to ensure great public schools for every student.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.


Diane Shust
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy