Last-Minute Private School Voucher Effort Fails in House


By Brian Washington

It sounds like an idea that would have no trouble getting through a Republican-controlled committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. But in the case of an amendment that would give a $7,500 voucher to special needs students of military families to attend private schools, the “devil” is in the details.

The Full Armed Services Committee on Wednesday unexpectedly voted down the amendment, offered by Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. (R-CA), 34 to 26. Many Republicans voted against the measure because they thought it was too costly.

NEA, which opposes siphoning off public tax dollars to fund private schools, played a key role in the amendment going down. The Association joined forces with a broad coalition of grassroots-based, community groups—including the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education—to oppose the amendment.

Students with special needs who attend Department of Defense schools already receive an excellent education—thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA provides complete services for students with special needs and will even cover the cost of a private school if doing so is necessary to ensure that these students receive full services.

“The Hunter amendment is completely unnecessary,” said Kim Anderson, NEA Director of Government Relations. “At a time when Congress is proposing drastic reductions in federal spending, including a House-passed bill slashing billions from core education programs, there is no reason to divert scare resources to vouchers.”

The Hunter amendment, which Anderson called bad public policy, contained other drawbacks as well. It only funded 250 vouchers, and those students who accepted the voucher would no longer be eligible for protections under IDEA.

A $7,500 voucher is not going to cover the cost of educating a student with special needs and, more importantly, is not real education reform. Our elected leaders need to focus on proven strategies that improve student achievement—like reducing class sizes, strengthening teacher training, and increasing parental involvement.

We need your voice! Get involved in the fight for real education reform by signing up now on EducationVotes to phonebank, attend rallies, or write and call your legislator.



Reader Comments

  1. This news needs to get to all those states favoring vouchers and charter schools. No wonder public education is under attack. Legislators when public schools abilities to teach by allowing state-funded charter schools not only to exist and steal the brightest students, but the same legislators expand the charter school’s right o exist and siphon off much needed funding. Why hasn’t the NEA sued these legislators on that very principle alone?

  2. We need more wins like this to push back the 2% people who would have us lose our freedom to critically think, and instead be “nice” little underpaid employees. Think what it would mean if all our sudents were no longer able to have a good eduction. I doubt that our special needs kids would recieve anything then.

    1. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people don’t understand that it is their tax $’s going to pay the alternative placement for ANYone who chooses vouchers, no matter what their reason is. It pulls $ away from public schools and all the students & programs there. Also there is no promise that IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) for gifted OR learning support–that are required in a public school–will be followed in the new placement. See, they get our $ but they don’t need to follow our rules. A bit unregulated and unfair, huh?

      1. I agree about tax $ going to educational programs that do not have to follow the same rules for teacher certification and/or professional improvement training nor core content standards and assessment. Furthermore, there is a question of separation of church and state.

  3. I am delighted this came out as it did, but it does NOT give me much faith in the changing nature of the new breed of conservative (read right wing) Republican. I am becoming increasingly concerned that there is an extremist agenda to shut down public schools in favor of vouchers for home schoolers and carefully selected private schools—probably only those with the ‘right’ political agenda. It would be a disaster, of course, for society as a whole—but I don’t see much concern for social well being from the far right.

    Thoughtful, ethical, mainstream Republicans do not foment this, but they are not standing against it publicly very I think there are enough well trained professionals at all levels to care for the rest of my life—but we should be deeply worried about what will happen for our children and grandchildren.

  4. The teachers at our school are constantly busy employing best practices, creating differenciated instruction to benefit our kids with IEPs (Individual Education Plan) and GIEPs (Gifted Individual Education Plans) so that their lessons contain plans to meet the needs of the high and low ability student. For those who are struggling, they have a section of the day set asside for remediation of those students who need an intensive approach, regardless of weather the reason is a student’s ability or effort.

    Our administration does a fantastic job of directing the efforts of our teachers through course design, curriculum mapping, and the latest, most up-to-date teaching methods and resourses available. Our school is on the cutting edge of every educational research based best practice strategy out there, and we are not a rich school district.

    I am proud of what our staff and administration has been doing for the past 10 years; our school works! And it is demoralizing to listen to the Repubs rant about our “broken” public education system, our free-loading teachers and those damnable unions that represent them. Our teachers work extremely well with our administration on issues of educating our students. Our administrators have done an excellent job of bringing teachers on board and pointing out to us what’s at stake, especially since NCLB, and in our state, PSSA. They’ve kept our feet to the fire, and it works, because we see the vision, and feel the urgency.

    Our Repubs believe the answer to everything is privatization, competition, and free enterprise. Based on the results of their fiscal plans for the USA over the past 30 years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lavish favor on the upper 2% of our students, while the rest of our kids can go to fallow…

    1. Sorry for the sloppy spelling: e.g.: differenciated/differentiated. asside/aside, weather/whether, resourses/resources. I was in a hurry; should have proof read before sending…

  5. Does this mean that republicans are actually starting to pay attention to RESEARCH instead of just assuming that ‘private is better’???

    1. ‘Many Republicans voted against the measure because they thought it was too costly.’

      I wish this were true Leslie, but I believe the quote from the article says it all.

  6. As a retired educator, I am thankful for this ruling. Public Education deserves all of the funding possible. Our teachers are profoundly underrated by many politicians. We applaud our public educators and are in awe of their many talents. It is unbelievable how many special needs children they love and teach. It is also unbelievable the amount of work put forth by each teacher to handle all of the needs of each child. I thank all of the teachers for their intelligence, stamina, love, understanding and perserverance in their classrooms.

    1. I find it difficult to read black print and light blue print on dark blue background.

      As a retired educator I am in support of teachers trying to succeed it such a difficult environment. I will not recommend to my grandchildren that they go into teaching. The majority political climate is so negative to education.

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