Congress Should Reject Scheme to Extend DC School Voucher Plan, Says Americans United

For Immediate Release

Congress Should Reject Scheme to Extend DC School Voucher Plan, Says Americans United

Watchdog Group Criticizes Program for Subsidizing Religion and Failing to Boost Student Achievement

WASHINGTON - Congress should reject proposed legislation that would breathe new life into Washington, D.C.'s controversial private school voucher plan, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

U.S. Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced legislation today to reauthorize the federally funded D.C. program. The plan was originally funded for five years and has expired.

"By every measure, the Washington voucher plan has been a dismal failure," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "I find it remarkable that anyone would want to reauthorize this program."

The voucher plan has always been controversial. It was pushed through Congress by President George W. Bush, passing the House of Representatives by a single vote. Advocates of church-state separation, like Americans United, oppose the program because it forces taxpayers to subsidize private religious education.

Lynn noted that all three of the congressionally mandated Department of Education studies of the D.C. voucher program have concluded that the voucher program has had no effect on the academic achievement of the target students and no effect on students overall in math.

In addition, these studies found that the voucher program had no significant effect on student satisfaction, motivation or engagement, or on student views on school safety. The studies also revealed that students participating in the voucher program were less likely to have access to key services - such as English as a Second Language programs, learning support and special-needs programs, and counselors - than students who were not part of the program.

"The D.C. voucher plan was a mistake from day one," Lynn said. "It's time to let it die and put the focus back on the public schools. We need a solution that helps all of the schoolchildren in our nation's capital."

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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.

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