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Cummings Opposes Legislation to Reauthorize D.C. School Voucher Program

Oct 22, 2015
Press Release

Cummings Opposes Legislation to  Reauthorize D.C. School Voucher Program

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 21, 2015)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spoke on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 10, the Scholarships and Results Act. This legislation would reauthorize the District of Columbia private school voucher program, which is the first and only federally created or funded private school voucher program in the country.

More than 50 organizations oppose H.R. 10, including the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Alliance of Black School Educators and the National Coalition for Public Education.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 240 to 191, with all but two Democrats voting in opposition.  

Below are Ranking Member Cummings’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the House floor today, and the video of his speech:

 

Floor Statement of Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings

 H.R. 10, the Scholarships and Results Act

 October 21, 2015

  

I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 10.

We have been told that the purpose of this bill is to help all DC children get a better education.  I strongly support that objective, but this bill does not.

Let me be crystal clear:  public funds should support public education.  But this bill proposes to spend more than $100 million over five years to fund vouchers to send public school students in the District of Columbia to private schools – while House Republicans are proposing to cut $2 billion from public K-12 education nationally.

Coming from the city of Baltimore, I understand first-hand the complexities of turning around struggling inner city schools.  Almost ten years ago I became deeply involved in improving one of my own neighborhood schools, the “Maritime Industries Academy.” 

It takes vision, commitment, accountability and, yes, resources to begin the process of turning troubled schools around.   However, it is impossible to turn around public schools if we divert public resources to private schools.

Put simply, H.R. 10 attempts to help a few students at the expense of the vast majority of the District’s children. 

By dividing the funding it would provide among DC’s Public Schools, Public Charter Schools, and private school vouchers, H.R. 10 provides a third of its total funding to a tiny fraction of the District’s students.  Specifically, the bill would fund vouchers to enable only 1,442 students – a tiny fraction of the District’s 47,548 students – to attend private schools.

The lack of equity is stunning.  Our focus should be on maximizing the impact of the federal government’s limited resources to serve ALL of the District’s students.

Since this bill last passed in 2011, over my strong objection and along party lines, studies of the program have demonstrated that the use of a voucher had no effect on academic achievement as measured by math and reading scores, school safety, student satisfaction with their school, or motivation and engagement.

Previous studies of this program show that 50% of the students from the first two cohorts of the DC voucher program eventually dropped out of the program. Students in the program are also less likely to attend a school that offers support programs for those that are academically challenged or have learning difficulties.

In addition, this bill is a direct assault on D.C.’s Home Rule that was rushed through our committee shortly after Speaker Boehner announced his retirement.  And the bill is not supported by DC’s elected representative in Congress or a majority of the DC City Counsel.

So all the rhetoric justifying massive cuts to education funding – all the talk about budget constraints, about tightening our belts, and about making sacrifices – all that goes out the window when Republicans want to give 100 million dollars in taxpayer funds to private schools.

As a graduate of public schools and a longtime advocate of quality public education, I believe our highest priority must be to use limited taxpayer dollars to support programs that will truly meet the educational needs of all children.  This bill does not do that.

So I urge my colleagues to reject H.R. 10.

Issues: 
114th Congress