School Voucher Bills Moving In Congress

House And Senate Face Votes On Plans To Fund Religious Schools In D.C.

Legislative proposals to give taxpayer funding to religious schools in Washington, D.C., are moving in Congress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15-13 (with one senator voting "present") today to approve a $13-million voucher plan for the District of Columbia. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a separate voucher proposal.

"The Bush administration and its allies in the voucher movement are determined to make the nation's capital a laboratory for taxpayer-supported religion," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "These ill-conceived plans will subsidize religion at taxpayer expense and hurt public education."

Lynn insists that vouchers are not the answer to D.C.'s education problems. Vouchers, he said, have not been proven to boost student performance wherever they have been tried.

"Voucher boosters promise a lot but deliver little," Lynn said. "Instead of forcing the American taxpayer to support religious education, Congress would do better to focus on the hard work of fixing troubled public schools."

The Senate plan would create a five-year pilot program providing taxpayer-funded vouchers of up to $7,500 per student to subsidize private school tuition for 2,000 low-income students in the District.

The plan, Lynn charged, would do nothing to help the majority of students in Washington's public schools.

"A lottery plan that allows 2,000 students to go to private schools leaves most D.C. youngsters behind," Lynn said. "The city needs a comprehensive approach that improves education for all. The voucher plan is a distraction from that goal."

The House legislation is H.R. 2765. The Senate version has yet to be assigned a number.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.