Republican Leadership Introduces New Voucher Scheme

September 29, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Representative Armey can try to dress this up anyway he pleases, but in the end his proposal represents nothing more than another voucher scheme designed to divert public funds to religious and private schools. He can call it whatever he wants, but the reality is that this is just the Republican leadership’s latest attempt to impose voucher schemes on our children.

Whether it’s called the “Academic Emergency Act” or the “Help Scholarships” proposal of 1997, the result is the same. Vouchers are nothing more than a government gamble — with our children’s education at stake. Congress must not allow our children’s education funding tossed onto a roulette table.

While some children will get vouchers and be admitted to private or religious schools, 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.

Rep. Armey and the Republican leadership have consistently refused to address the real problems facing our public schools — especially in low income and poor communities.

If the federal government has enough of our tax dollars to start a national voucher program, surely it must have enough money to improve our neediest schools. Why is that of such little importance to Rep. Armey and other voucher proponents?

Poll after poll confirms that most Americans want their tax dollars to ensure that all children attend safe and clean schools, with smaller class sizes and better teacher training. Yet all too often, we see pictures on the evening news of children in poor school districts who are huddled in winter coats during math class because their school lacks a working boiler. How can children learn when they are forced to sit in unheated classrooms?

Voucher programs do nothing to address these pressing needs. Instead they 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.

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