D.C. school voucher program must go

    On Feb. 13, President Bush announced the nation’s first federally funded school voucher program, which will give public school students in Washington, D.C. the opportunity to attend local private schools. The initiative was approved as part of a delayed 2004 budget bill.

    Bush asked for $50 million to fund the vouchers, which will be worth up to $7,500 each and given to at least 1,700 students. The Washington, D.C. school district has 65,000 students.

    Supporters claim that competition to obtain vouchers will spurn public schools to raise standards, provide accountability and make private-school education available to low-income students. They argue that vouchers will not hurt public schools financially because they will still receive the same funding-per-student.

    While it seems like vouchers could improve standards, it actually hurts the students. Vouchers will undermine public schools, which do not have the means to improve on the principle of competition. Regardless of per-student funding, programs will be cut and teachers fired due to the loss of students. Students who are unable to get or who don’t apply for vouchers will be left behind in weakened schools.

    Instead of securing funds for vouchers, Bush should use the funding to improve the struggling public schools in Washington, D.C., channeling money into teacher and staff development, after-school programs and up-to-date supplies.

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