What: All Issues : Education, Humanities, & the Arts : Funding for Vouchers for Private Schools : H.R. 2765. Fiscal 2004 District of Columbia Appropriations/Second Vote to Create a $10 Million Private School Voucher Program in DC. (2003 house Roll Call 490)
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H.R. 2765. Fiscal 2004 District of Columbia Appropriations/Second Vote to Create a $10 Million Private School Voucher Program in DC.
house Roll Call 490     Sep 09, 2003
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

During debate on the 2004 District of Columbia appropriation bill, the main issue of contention involved the creation of a private school voucher program in DC. On a previous vote (roll call vote 478), the House adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Davis (R-VA) to create a $10 million school voucher program in the District whereby eligible elementary or secondary school students would receive $7500 to transfer from public to private schools. After House Republican leaders extended the vote on Davis's amendment beyond the customary fifteen minutes in order to whip up additional support for the measure, the Davis amendment was narrowly passed by a 205-203 margin. In response to what they viewed as excessive strong-arm tactics by the Republican leadership, Democrats invoked a seldom-used parliamentary procedure to hold a second vote on the Davis amendment. Progressives opposed the Davis amendment (and private school vouchers generally) on two main grounds. First, Progressives argued that private school vouchers are not a long-term fix to problems in the nation's public education system. In fact, they argued, vouchers would drain money that would otherwise be available to improve public schools. Second, Davis's amendment would benefit only a small minority of public school students and, furthermore, the $7500 voucher would cover only a fraction of private school tuition costs (which often exceed $20,000 per year). Thus, the families of low-income students, even if they qualified for the voucher, would still be burdened with private school tuition costs. Progressives contended that students from middle and high-income families-and not students from lower-income families whom vouchers ostensibly target-would benefit most from private school vouchers. Conversely, in the view of Conservatives, private school vouchers can improve educational opportunities for those students who are stuck in a poor public school but would, with a voucher, be able to attend a private school. DC schools, Conservatives pointed out, rank among the worst in the nation in terms of test scores, funding per pupil, and class size. By another narrow margin, the Davis amendment was adopted 208-207 and the DC school voucher program remained in the underlying DC appropriations bill.

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