NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

D.C. Vouchers Possible

September 17, 2003

Washington, D.C., could become the fourth jurisdiction to implement a publicly funded school voucher program of any size under a bill approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would establish a five-year voucher pilot program in the district. The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed similar legislation; a vote on the floor could take place this month. President Bush is eager to sign a bill.

Although the district spends more per pupil than almost every state, its students are among the least educated.

  • On a nationwide test assessing educational progress, 76 percent of fourth-graders lacked even partial mastery of the math skills and knowledge expected of students at that grade level.
  • A similar percentage of eighth-graders likewise were judged "below basic" on math.
  • The same test also showed that students in those same grades read poorly.

Roughly 68,000 students attend the district's public schools. Like voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland, D.C. vouchers would target students from families with modest to low incomes. As much as $7,500 for tuition, fees and transportation to any district private school would be available to up to 1,300 students whose parents (assuming a family of four) earn less than $34,200.

The voucher program has the support of the city's mayor and school board president. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), proposed the voucher measure the Senate Appropriations Committee approved.

Source: Terry Eastland (Weekly Standard), "Vouchers Deserve a Chance," Dallas Morning News, September 17, 2003.


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