(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today joined leaders from local and national educational, civil rights and DC democracy groups in denouncing the school-voucher provision that congressional leaders attached to the April 8 budget deal that averted a government shutdown.
The provision revives a program that provides government-funded scholarships that a handful of DC students can use to attend private and parochial schools.
“I acknowledge that people of goodwill can and do disagree about vouchers. What is unconscionable to me, however, is what this program’s continuation represents,” Mayor Gray said. “And what it represents is the use of the District and her 600,000 residents, once again, as bargaining chips in political negotiations and guinea pigs for the favorite social experiments of important congressional leaders.”
Mayor Gray spoke at an event hosted by the American Association of University Women. Leaders from several other organizations opposed to the congressional imposition of vouchers on the District – including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, DC for Democracy, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Alliance of Black School Educators – also participated.
Mayor Gray noted that congressional leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, have long pushed the voucher program under the banner of “school choice” – but that the District already has one of the nation’s most robust public-school-choice systems.
“We’ve now got 52 charter schools operating on 98 separate campuses across the District,” Mayor Gray said. “Education reform and public-school choice are alive and well here in the District of Columbia. So why, in the name of ‘school choice’ would Congress choose to impose a private-school voucher scheme on 600,000 people who have little say and no vote in whether the federal government institutes such a program or not?”
The event was held at Ross Elementary School in the District’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. It is one of the city’s most diverse schools. DC Public Schools’ overall enrollment grew last year for the first time in decades, and DC Public Charter Schools’ enrollment grew as well – suggesting that parents in the District are confident of continued progress.