Mrs. JONES of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment. It is very interesting that this committee would say that the mayor and the chair of the school board of the D.C. school systems want this money. What mayor and what chairman of a school board would not want more money? But the reality is that this $10 million should perhaps be going towards adequately funding public schools. Perhaps it should be going towards teacher training so that the teachers in the classroom are better trained to do what
they need to do. Perhaps the money should be going towards special education.
But I stand here from a community, the city of Cleveland, that was the test case in the Supreme Court for vouchers. And I stand here capable and able to tell you that an independent study from Indiana University reported that the children in voucher schools are doing no better than the children in Cleveland public schools. I stand here to say to you that instead of parceling out $10 million here and $10 million there, we ought to fund public education at a level that every child in the United
States of America is getting a decent education. We ought to be saying to parents across this country that we want you to have the opportunity to fund education in public school systems.
Now, the reality is we keep talking about parental choice. Even in the Cleveland school system case, there was only a choice. All children who did not go to public schools and took a voucher went to Catholic schools. There was no choice. It was either public school or Catholic school. And it is clear in the language of the Supreme Court case that parents ought to have a choice. Let us get real in Congress. Let us get real. Let us talk about funding public education where all children have an
opportunity to get a decent education. Let us talk about taking money and improving the building systems. Let us talk about taking money and reducing the teacher-student ratio. Let us talk about making real, making real this piece that we talk to children about, the importance of education, the importance of doing well.
By doing this $10 million voucher program for the D.C. school systems, we are leaving out so many other children that ought to have a decent education. The reality is in these United States the way we fund education based on property taxes does not, in fact, make it fair.
The Supreme Court of Ohio found that the way we fund education in the State of Ohio is unconstitutional because it means that if you live in a community where the property tax is high and the dollars are allocated for property tax for schools, that children in some parts of the State get a better education than children in the other parts of the State.
I say this morning, our job is to defeat this voucher program for the D.C. school systems, to support the amendment of my colleague, the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton) and to support a strong public education for all children.
Mr. CLAY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
I rise in support of the Norton amendment, and I strongly oppose private school vouchers. No matter the location, the type of program or the amount, vouchers are a bad idea for our children. The Committee on Government Reform approved this amendment by a one-vote, razor-thin margin. Both Republicans and Democrats voted against the D.C. voucher, and I thank my colleagues for their opposition to D.C. vouchers.
Serious concerns were raised about this amendment during committee consideration. I share those concerns and believe it is important that this information be shared with the public.
We know that vouchers drain millions from public education. Any extra money should be invested into D.C. public schools and other public schools nationwide that deserve the majority of our children. Investing in public schools helps us hire more highly-qualified teachers, purchase supplies and books, and repair our schools. Vouchers are not the solution.
Vouchers eliminate public oversight for taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, as illustrated in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Florida's voucher programs, vouchers eliminate public oversight, public accountability and have led to cases of fraud and fiscal mismanagement.
Vouchers contradict the accountability reform required by the No Child Left Behind, such as the hiring of highly-qualified teachers and the annual testing and public reporting on student performance. These standards are not required by private schools that accept federally funded vouchers, creating a double standard regarding Federal funding and education.
I would be glad to hear from proponents of vouchers to tell us why we should not have accountability when public dollars follow these children to private institutions. I would love to hear from the other side to tell us why we should not have better accountability.
I offered an amendment in the Committee on Government Reform in good faith, asking that the same standards that apply to all of our public schools also apply to these vouchers. I would love to hear their response.
I urge my colleagues to respect the right of D.C. residents to make decisions of their own in their city. The majority of D.C. elected officials and residents oppose vouchers. The official position of the D.C. school board and city council is to oppose vouchers. If the residents of the District of Columbia wanted vouchers in D.C., their local governance, the school board or city council could create such a program.
Some in this body have suggested that D.C. residents need our permission or Federal money to create a voucher program. That simply is not true. D.C. residents do not need the permission of this Congress. Nor do they need the Federal purse to create a program. D.C. residents just do not want vouchers.
Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman mentioned how we feel about accountability. The ultimate accountability is portability, the ability to move to a different school if you do not like the school you are attending now. That is the ultimate accountability and that is what this provides.
Mr. CLAY. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, I might respond that we also need accountability of public dollars. When those dollars follow those children to those private institutions, we should also hold them accountable [Page: H7971]
and have benchmarks. Show us where test scores have improved, show us where reading levels have gone up, show us where dropout rates have been lower. That is the kind of accountability I am suggesting.
Mr. CLAY. No, there are not. No, there are not. Now, we discussed this when Secretary Paige came to the committee, and he suggested that we do strengthen the language in the bill to have real accountability.