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National Voucher Legislation Defeated

Senate Rejects Attempt to Extend Voucher Program for Katrina Relief

WASHINGTON -- Students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will receive federal support in the form of aid to public schools, rather than school vouchers that hurt public education, under legislation passed by the Senate today.

“This marks the end of the national voucher program,” said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association.  “Some lawmakers took advantage of the disaster caused by the hurricanes to push their own political agenda.  The federal voucher program offered aid to students with one hand, and took money from underfunded public schools with the other.  With today’s vote, Senators should be applauded for placing public education above political games.”

Senators rejected proposals to extend the federal voucher program, a one-year, one-time emergency program for hurricane victims, beyond its September 2006 expiration.  Instead, they adopted a proposal by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to redirect the $350 million away from the voucher program and into Title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, where it would help public schools aid displaced students.

Private schools would only be eligible to receive services provided through public schools and would not receive any direct funding.

The legislation—included in the emergency appropriations bill—now moves to conference committee to reconcile differences with the House version of the bill, which does not contain any language on the voucher program.

Voucher programs siphon scarce resources from already underfunded public schools, Weaver explained.  Students that choose to remain in public schools—either by choice or lack of financial resources—are on even more difficult footing than before because their schools are forced to operate with even fewer resources.

Instead of voucher programs, NEA believes schools need to be adequately and equitably funded so that every school has small class sizes, a highly qualified teacher and up-to-date technology.

“Directing money into public schools will help these devastated areas truly begin to rebuild,” Weaver said. “It will help lay the foundation not only for new schools, but for a quality public education for every child."

May 4, 2006