Vouchers may sound fair but they divert much needed public funds away from public schools and to schools that selectively choose who they admit and are not accountable to taxpayers. The national PTA, which is also against vouchers, sent the following detailed response to all members of Congress today:
"We must also do more to help children when their schools do not measure up. Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our nation's capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other nonpublic schools.
Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities. So I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning.
And to open the doors of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential.
Together, we've expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let us apply the same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools."
January 29, 2008
United States Senate
United States House of Representatives
Dear Members of Congress:
The National PTA, comprising millions of parents, teachers, students, and other child advocates, is firmly opposed to President Bush's proposal for "Pell Grants for Kids", a national voucher program that deprives public schools of critically needed taxpayer funds by diverting those funds to private schools with no taxpayer or educational accountability. Public funding for education needs to support and improve our nation's public schools.
In one breath, Mr. Bush called for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), saying that we must "work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states and districts, reduce the number of dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools." In the next breath, Mr. Bush called for the diversion of $300 million dollars in taxpayer funds to support schools that are not accountable to the public, have no requirements for teacher quality, and show no evidence of improving student achievement. This seems contradictory, at best.
Vouchers benefit few students while taking scarce resources away from those who need it the most. Vouchers take money away from public schools, where 90 percent of all school-age children are enrolled, and give it to private schools. Public schools must meet federal state and local standards in a broad variety of areas including teacher qualifications, core curriculum and student achievement, and report their status to elected school boards and the taxpaying public. Private schools have no public accountability for the expenditure of public funds. Public schools must demonstrate student achievement and progress. Private schools are not required to demonstrate anything. Students receiving vouchers are not required to take core subjects such as reading, math, history, and science much less demonstrate proficiency in these core subjects. Private schools are not required to have "highly qualified" teachers or even meet minimal state teacher qualifications. Private schools are not required to make Adequate Yearly Progress.
The "choice" in "choice programs" lies with private school administrators, not with parents. Supporters of vouchers claim that they give choice to parents; that is not the case. Vouchers will not ensure parental "choice." Private and religious schools may deny applications for enrollment for any reason. Furthermore, private schools are not required to follow the parental involvement provisions of NCLB, a provision that Congress embraced heartily just a few short years ago.
There is no strong evidence that voucher programs—whether funded directly, or indirectly through education tax subsidies—improve student achievement. In fact, a recent study by the Department of Education shows that public school students do as well or better than their private school counterparts in 4th grade math and reading and in 8th grade math on the National Assessment of Education Progress.
Americans have consistently rejected vouchers, both in surveys and in referendums. What's more, Congress has consistently rejected voucher proposals just like the President's most recent proposal.
If we are serious about keeping America competitive, we must be equally serious about our support of education. If we want student achievement to continue to rise, high-school graduation and college enrollment to increase, and the student drop-out rate to decrease, there is no better investment than public education. Children succeed when families, schools and communities work together. Together, we can make every child's potential a reality.
If National PTA can provide you with any further information or assistance, please contact Todd Haiken, Acting Manager of Public Policy, at
Jan Harp Domene
PTA National President
If you feel as strongly about this as I do, now is a good time to contact your representatives in Congress and remind them how you feel about this proposal:
Or, email all 3 at once using this site: http://www.rallycongress.com/letter2congress/698/