The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Urges Senate to Reject Lieberman School Voucher Amendment

Watchdog Group Says Continued Federal Funding for D.C. Religious Schools Undermines Constitution, Hurts Public Education


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the
Senate to reject an amendment reauthorizing Washington, D.C.'s
controversial school voucher program.

The District of Columbia voucher plan was initially authorized in
2004 as a five-year experiment. Studies indicate that the program has
been academically unsuccessful and marred by problems, but supporters
are trying to breathe new life into it.

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) has introduced an amendment to
the jobs bill that would reauthorize the voucher plan. A Senate floor
vote may take place as early as today.

"The D.C. voucher experiment has been an abject failure," said the
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It has
fallen far short of its goals for boosting achievement among the
targeted population. It also forces taxpayers to support religious
schools against their will and draws attention away from legitimate
public education reforms."

The federally funded program, promoted heavily by the Bush
administration, passed the House of Representatives by a single vote in
2004 on a night when many voucher opponents were away from the floor.
Republicans held the vote open for more than 40 minutes to gather the
necessary votes. It later cleared the Senate only as a result of a
procedural move.

Lynn called on Congress to stop wasting time and money on the
voucher plan and focus on a strategy for improving public education for
all D.C. students. He noted that most of the private schools taking
part in the plan are sectarian in nature and not accountable to the

"Using tax money to funnel a small percentage of D.C. students into
religious schools isn't an answer, it's a cop-out," Lynn said. "We need
a solution that helps every student in the nation's capital. This isn't

In a letter sent to every senator today, Americans United pointed out the flaws in the D.C. voucher plan.

"On all counts -- improving achievement, using funds effectively,
providing opportunities for students in schools in need of improvement,
and improving public schools -- the D.C. voucher program has failed,"
observes the letter. "Accordingly, reauthorizing the program is

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.