Education

Deadlock Over D.C. Voucher Proposal Threatens City Budget

By Peter Schmidt — December 13, 1995 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Members of Congress are so at odds over a proposal to give tuition vouchers to District of Columbia schoolchildren that the deadlock could prevent passage of a budget bill for the nation’s capital.

House and Senate leaders last week called off a scheduled conference-committee meeting on the District of Columbia appropriations bill because they could not reconcile their differences on the voucher plan and a handful of other controversial provisions. The impasse threatened passage of the entire appropriations bill, which contains a broad package of school reforms that have been approved by both sides. (See Education Week, Nov. 15, 1995.)

A stopgap spending plan for the District of Columbia as well as some federal agencies, including the Department of Education, expires Dec. 15. (See related story.)

The House negotiators continued last week to insist that the budget bill contain a plan to provide low-income children in the District of Columbia with federally funded “education scholarships” of up to $4,000 for use at public or private schools. They argued that its inclusion had been key in persuading House Republicans to approve that chamber’s version of the appropriations bill.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has adamantly supported the plan and reportedly directed House negotiators to go to great lengths to keep it in the bill.

But senators reiterated their opposition, and warned that the bill would be subject to a filibuster on the Senate floor if the voucher plan is included. A Dec. 5 letter signed by more than 30 senators described the scholarship proposal as “an unprecedented step that we do not believe should be taken.”

Referring to proposed cuts in federal education programs, the letter said “it is incongruous for Congress, on one hand, to propose cutting publicly accountable education funding by 22 percent, while on the other hand establishing a program that provides scarce federal dollars to private and religious schools that are largely unaccountable to the public.”

'`As Big as It Gets’

The five senators who are members of the House-Senate conference committee charged with hammering out differences on the budget bill did not sign the letter, but all have expressed some degree of opposition to the voucher plan.

“This is not just a tiny District of Columbia issue,” Julie A. Segal, the legislative counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in an interview last week. “This is federal legislation for school vouchers. This is as big as it gets.”

The National Coalition for Public Education, which consists of more than 40 education, civil-liberties, civil-rights, and religious groups, is spearheading opposition to the voucher plan.

Officials of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian advocacy group, said last week that it had persuaded Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Mayor John Norquist of Milwaukee to call Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., the highest-ranking Senate conferee and a voucher opponent, to praise the voucher laws passed by their respective states.

House and Senate leaders also remained divided last week over provisions in the House bill that would block the city from paying for abortions with federal funds.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 1995 edition of Education Week as Deadlock Over D.C. Voucher Proposal Threatens City Budget

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
When SEL Curriculum Is Not Enough: Integrating Social-Emotional Behavior Supports in MTSS
Help ensure the success of your SEL program with guidance for building capacity to support implementation at every tier of your MTSS.
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
Professional Wellness Strategies to Enhance Student Learning and Live Your Best Life
Reduce educator burnout with research-affirmed daily routines and strategies that enhance achievement of educators and students alike. 
Content provided by Solution Tree
English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 11, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read