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Letter to the Senate HSGAC

December 08, 2015

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we urge you to oppose the SOAR Reauthorization Act (S. 2171) which is scheduled for markup tomorrow. Votes associated with this issue may be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress. 

Vouchers deprive students of important rights and protections. Private schools that participate in the DC voucher program receive public money, but they are not subject to all the federal civil rights laws that public schools must meet—they may discriminate against a student based on his or her gender, disability, religion, economic background, national origin, academic record, English language ability, or disciplinary history. Students with special needs who use vouchers lose many rights granted by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and may not have the protection of an individualized education plan. Further, all four congressionally mandated U.S. Department of Education reports on the DC voucher program’s impact on student achievement (published in June 2010, March 2009, June 2008, and June 2007) found no significant improvement in reading or math scores among participants.

On amendments that may be considered during this week’s markup of S. 2171, NEA holds the following positions:

Amendments NEA Opposes

  • Booker Amendment #1: To increase the scholarship award from $12,000 to $15,000
  • Johnson Amendment #1: To add findings and to strip manager’s amendment language.
  • Johnson Amendment #2: To condition funding of DC public schools on certain criteria and makes Individuals with Disabilities Education Act money portable to voucher schools

Amendments NEA Supports

  • Baldwin Amendment #1: Requires schools accepting voucher students to comply with the same federal civil rights laws applicable to public schools
  • Baldwin Amendment #2: requires compliance with Title IV of Civil Rights Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #3 requires compliance with Title VI of Civil Rights Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #4 requires compliance with Title IX of Education Amendments Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #5: requires compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunities Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #6: requires compliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #7: requires compliance with Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #8: requires compliance with Title IV the Age Discrimination Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #9: requires compliance with Titles II and III of Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Baldwin Amendment #10: conditions program funding on fully funding Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Carper Amendment #1: requires schools to be accredited by the list of accrediting agencies in the D.C. School Reform Act of 1995 to receive vouchers;
  • Carper Amendment #2: requires the study to be conducted using the strongest possible research design
  • Carper Amendment #3: inserts “disability” into nondiscrimination section of SOAR Act
  • Carper Amendment #4: puts cap on students in voucher schools at 50%
  • Carper Amendment #5: puts cap on students in voucher schools at 85%
  • McCaskill Amendment #1: requires parental notification that Title IX does not apply to students in voucher schools and that schools must provide information on where students and parents can seek Title IX remedies
  • Peters Amendment #1: requires all the federal civil rights protections as the House motion to reconsider, minus the Age Discrimination Act, and requires reporting to the Dept. of Ed. as part of “Civil Rights Data Collection”
  • Peters Amendment #2: adds “actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity” to nondiscrimination provision in SOAR Act

Again, we urge you to oppose the SOAR Reauthorization Act. Instead of taking taxpayer funds away from public schools and handing them over to private schools, we should focus on equipping all students for success and closing opportunity gaps for all students, no matter what zip code they live in.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler

Director of Government Relations