ACLU Criticizes Republican Leadership as Voucher Battle Erupts On House Floor

October 20, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Republican leaders today continued their efforts to divert funding from schools that serve poor communities to school vouchers for private and religious schools, a move sharply criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Voucher schemes designed to divert public funds to religious and private schools have no place in debate on a bill that is designed to deliver essential funding to schools that serve poor communities,” said Terri Schroeder, an ACLU legislative representative. “Vouchers are nothing more than a government gamble – with our children’s education at stake. Our children deserve more than to have their education funding thrown onto the roulette table.”

Despite the objections of Representative Bill Goodling, Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, and President Clinton, the Republican House leadership is allowing three voucher amendments to be debated during a vote on education funds for low-income school districts. Rep. Goodling, along with representatives from both parties, blocked voucher amendments that were offered during committee consideration of the reauthorization of the $8 billion Title I bill, H.R. 2.

While some children will get vouchers and be admitted to private or religious schools, the ACLU said that many will not. Those left behind will attend poorer public schools with fewer resources, teachers, textbooks and activities.

“Fundamental fairness demands that we improve our public schools for every child instead of targeting a few for special privileges,” Schroeder said.

Poll after poll confirms that most Americans want their tax dollars spent to ensure that all children attend safe and clean schools, with smaller class sizes and better teacher training. Voucher programs do nothing to address these pressing needs, the ACLU said.

“Voucher schemes offer the illusion of ‘choice,’ when at best, they increase the opportunities for only a handful of children who will be carefully selected by private and religious schools that have the luxury of deciding whom they want to admit,” Schroeder said.

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