Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and let me start by thanking the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Frelinghuysen). This chairman, I think in the ways most remembered of Julian Dixon, has taken the helm and worked hard, been sensitive to the issues arising here in the capital city. He has been out and about visiting and visibly showing the concern of the Congress for the plight of the city's neighborhoods. I think he
most appropriately understands and appreciates the work that the city's leadership, the Mayor and the council and its delegate, the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton), have done to rescue the city from its fiscal constraints from years ago.
Mr. Chairman, I worked with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) in creating the financial control board, which was modeled after the PICA Board that we instituted in Philadelphia that I sponsored in the legislature then, and it has worked well here in the District. The district is now on its own and has done a tremendous job in righting the ship.
The chairman understands and appreciates the superb leadership that superintendent Paul Vance has brought to the school district and the board of education here in Washington, D.C., and I just want to thank the chairman, thank his staff, particularly Carol Murphy, who has shepherded at the helm the work of the majority staff, and I would also like to thank Rob Nabors on the Democratic appropriations staff and William Miles from my personal staff that have worked on D.C.-related matters.
We come here today with a bill in which there will be a lot of attention on what we disagree on, and we disagree on one item, that of vouchers; but I do not want that to overshadow the fact that this bill, absent that one disagreement, is a very significant accomplishment and it is owed solely to the leadership of the chairman and his capable political skills and bringing to a consensus how we should address a whole host of issues affecting our capital city.
This is, I think without disagreement, in the world's only remaining superpower, the wealthiest country in the world, this is our capital city, and it is a symbol in every important way to world visitors, foreign leaders, and to those who look upon this Nation as to where our priorities are. So it is important work that the Congress does. And as we seek to promote democracy in other places, I know that we hope one day here in the District that American citizens who pay taxes and who are dying
on foreign battlefields will have democracy here in the District and be able to have on the floor of this House not just a voice but a vote.
Mr. Chairman, today I commend the chairman for this bill. I think it addresses the critical issues in important ways. He has fought for an allocation that some may have some issues with, but it is representative of approaching what we need to address the District's problems; and I thank him and his staff for their work.
Mr. Chairman, I hope we can enter into the general debate and move through this bill, have a passionate discussion about the question of vouchers but not overlook the fact that we have broad agreement here on the direction of what our fiscal responsibilities are to the District of Columbia.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, this committee used to be a drudgery. If you asked somebody to serve on the D.C. committee, you had to pull them out from under the bed to get them to come to work. I would say that thanks to the ranking member, the chairman, and the work that the committee has done over the past few years, it has gotten to be one of the better committees.
I think if one looks at what has been done in a bipartisan way, and, yes, we do have some differences, but in a bipartisan way, with the help of a Mayor that is business-oriented, Mayor Williams, who I think has done a good job, I think we can be proud of the committee and the output of this, with a couple of exceptions.
I have volunteered to stay on the committee all these years I have been in Congress because I have an education background and I had several goals. One was to help the education system in Washington because it had some of the highest cost and lowest productivity. Any Member that would go out into the city will find some very dedicated, very good teachers in Washington, D.C. I know the ranking member and the chairman have both gone out into the community, as I have, and visited some of these schools.
You would be amazed at the differences since the committee has started to work.
The Mayor has gone through a pretty tough bureaucracy; and like all bureaucracies, sometimes you cannot get the things done that you want even though you are the leader of a city. So I laud the Mayor for the work that he has done. Even though in some cases very slow, he has plodded through it. He has kept true to his word. He communicates, and I thank Mayor Williams for that.
Another area was the waterfront. But there was a whole area in which pilings had been left from the 1940s that were corroding into the Potomac River. The Anacostia River had the highest fecal count of any river in the United States. It was not just pollution that was killing the fish. There is such a high fecal count because every time it rains that raw sewage goes into the Anacostia River. Fish were dying because of the bacteria. There was so much bacteria it ate the oxygen and the fish suffocated.
That is how bad it was. We still need a [Page: H7957]
national program to help the Washington, D.C. sewage system. Without it, we will not clean up our rivers, and it will be a health hazard to Washington, D.C.; and I look forward to working with my colleagues on doing that as well.
If my colleagues will go down now they will see a marina in progress. Half of it is done, and the other half, all the pilings that were leaching creosote into the water, are gone and the new docks are coming in. Guess what? That is revenue to the city because that is leased land. Instead of being a drain, instead of being a deficit, it will be a revenue producer for the city.
My goal is to make the waterfront like a San Diego, where I live, or a San Francisco wharf and waterfront where people can go down with their families and enjoy the waterfront and water that is clean instead of polluted like it even still is today. And again I want to thank the ranking member.
We differ a little bit on economic scholarships. I personally think my colleagues would be surprised that, yes, I support vouchers, as some call them, or economic scholarships, whatever you want to call them. But I only support them if the community wants them. I do not think the Federal Government should mandate it. The community must itself want them, because in some areas there may be transportation costs far exceeding the cost of moving a child to another area. There may be a certain school
that, a private school, that does not take IDEA children. And those costs may be apples and oranges.
In many areas across the country vouchers do work. In my opinion, Washington, D.C. is a classic. I know the gentlewoman opposes it, but the Mayor supports it, the city supports it; and I think the people that in some cases where their children are trapped, where a mother of a child that wants to learn is out there and wants to get out of the quagmire that they live in but yet are trapped in a school that does not produce, they deserve the opportunity. The first goal is to bring that school up
to level, I agree, with public education. But in the meantime, let us not let that child get left behind. Let us work with that child.
I think my colleagues know my heart is in the right place, even though they may disagree with me on the issue. But I think it will be a good program.
Mr. Chairman, I again want to thank the ranking member and the chairman and the members on the committee. It is starting to be a very good pleasure to work with this committee.
Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to thank the gentleman from California for his comments and his work on the committee, and indeed it is because of the leadership that he has brought that a great deal of progress has happened in terms of the waterfront.
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, Mayor Williams did another thing. The highest incidence for prostate cancer is among African Americans, and the highest incidence in the United States is in Washington, D.C. The mayor worked with our committee and chairman and ranking member, and on a sleet, rain-driven night, we packed the house in a town hall meeting on prostate cancer for African Americans because it had never been done before. The mayor has agreed to do another meeting, and we plan on doing that.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Frelinghuysen) who has worked in such a bipartisan fashion with the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Fattah) on this appropriation. I want to thank them both for their bipartisanship, bipartisanship without compromising their principles, but also for their sensitivity to home rule and the fact that this is an independent jurisdiction that ought to be able
to speak up for itself the way jurisdictions of every Member of this House can.
I am proud how far our city has come under the leadership of Mayor Williams and City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp and our city council. We have come a very long way from insolvency to a city now that is in better shape than most jurisdictions in the United States because of the prudence of our local leadership.
I want to talk about what this bill is about because this is not our usual D.C. appropriation where I would normally thank the President for funding my tuition access bill, and let me do it anyway, probably the most popular legislation in the District of Columbia because it allows young people to go to any State-supported institution anywhere in the United States; but nobody will remember the D.C. appropriation 2003 for anything but one issue. Members simply have to concentrate on what they are
This is a bill with a vouchers-only provision. We will hear promises about maybe in the Senate they will have some money. That bill is in huge trouble in the Senate, and of course some money has been put in for public funding when there was an uproar in the city about funding vouchers, and then the pro-voucher officials came forward and said wait a minute, we have a three-sector approach, and we will get some money for the public schools, too.
But everybody understands the public money is a cover for vouchers. It is a way to take the sting out of vouchers. This is one of the most anti-voucher jurisdictions in the United States of America. They have tried it here for 20 years, and this is a jurisdiction which sent me, their Congresswoman, time and again, back here to ask Members to veto their appropriation to keep vouchers from being attached to it until President Clinton could somehow negotiate them off.
So the people of the District of Columbia have not turned around on a dime and flip-flopped and said we want vouchers. All Members need to do is sit in my office and they will know where they stand, because the elected officials, the majority of the elected officials of the school board, the majority of the city council, have written to you to say we do not want vouchers.
What is important for every Member to know and to understand is that this is not only a vouchers-only bill so that is what Members are going to be voting on, but this will be the first time in the United States of America that the Congress of the United States has sent money to private schools, something that huge numbers of Members on the other side of the aisle have crossed to this side of the aisle to vote with us to say we will never do.
There is a reason people do not do it. They do not do it in part because two-thirds of the American people oppose vouchers, if we want to get down to particulars. But this year is the last time we would want them to do it because this is the year when if Members went home for recess, Members heard a bipartisan backlash against a bipartisan bill, the No Child Left Behind bill, because people are now beginning to pay the unfunded mandate for No Child Left Behind, and now Members [Page:
are going to vote to send money to private schools with that $9 billion unfunded mandate.
Schools are in the worst crisis that they have been in our country since World War II, the worst funding crisis, according to all of the data coming forward. What do Members have in your own districts on CNN and everywhere else? Slick, expensive ads, national TV, the opening salvo to a new nationwide drive for vouchers in every district, just as that well-funded set of forces have wanted to do for some time.
If Members pass this bill, if Members vote for vouchers, they will send a signal to every private school in the country, every organization of private schools, to every organization of religious schools, that this is the time to bring pressure to get the same kind of private school deal that the District of Columbia got, and Members can expect the same slick ads right in their district.
Mr. Chairman, many Members have heard from our mayor. He is my good friend, and will continue to be my good friend, even on an issue like this. We will continue to work closely on the issues affecting our city. He has pressed this Congress, but he has not successfully pressed the elected officials of the District of Columbia or the people of the District of Columbia.
We have the letter from the council chair and Members have the letter from the parents' association. Perhaps Members saw the hundreds of D.C. residents, led by ministers and rabbis who fanned out all over this Congress on Wednesday to say do not do vouchers in this city. We are not to be your pilot. Do not experiment in the District of Columbia, experiment in your own States. The city has a situation here which is not cost free. We are undergoing $40 million in cuts, another $25 million will
go out if 2,000 students exit if the schools are funded on a per-pupil basis. D.C. has a $50 million unfunded No Child Left Behind mandate right now. All of our elected officials should be down here trying to get that money the way Members of Congress have.
The District of Columbia wants Congress to respect their alternatives. We are ahead of virtually every district in this Congress on alternatives. We have our own charter schools, the largest number in the United States per capita. They have long waiting lists. Those are the chosen options of our people by our people. We have 15 transformation schools for the poorest children in the District of Columbia, the first breakthrough in Stanford 9 scores in the history of the city. That breakthrough
will no longer occur unless the funding that the city has put in continues. And then, of course, a child in the District of Columbia can go out of boundaries; something that Members' districts have yet to do or have finally been mandated to do, we have been doing for decades.
Members do not want vouchers in their districts. They have been voted down on the floor. I represent this District of Columbia. I am here to tell Members you do not want them in your district, and we do not want them in our district. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is not because a huge majority, almost two-thirds of the American people, oppose vouchers; and why would Members think it would be any different in the District of Columbia? It is no different.
Mr. Chairman, Members should not forget where their constituents stand when they cast their vote today. I certainly have not forgotten where mine stand.
Ms. WATSON. Mr. Chairman, I stand in strong opposition to the provision in the District of Columbia appropriation bill authorizing $10 million in funding for school vouchers.
Having worked as an elementary school teacher, a school psychologist, and having served on a school board of the largest school district in the State of California, I have seen firsthand the need to strengthen standards in our public schools and to demand more from our teachers and our students through better accountability and adequate resources.
However, voucher programs that divert precious funding away from the public school system, and particularly here in D.C., would do exactly the opposite.
First, vouchers lack accountability. Private schools funded by vouchers are not subjected to the same standards established by the Leave No Child Behind Act.
Second, vouchers can discriminate. Private schools have the ultimate say in deciding which students they want to enroll, and they can screen out applicants based on any factor without obeying Federal antidiscrimination laws. The children that need to be focused on are not going to be admitted in these private schools. Trust me when I say that.
Finally, vouchers simply do not have a proven record of success. There is no discernible difference in achievement between students and voucher programs and students in public education program. Every time vouchers have appeared on the California ballot, they have been voted down. Senator Feinstein's support of this provision is not reflective of the will of the people in California in this regard.
So how else could we use this $10 million? We could use it to improve the public schools which are already facing a $40 million budget cut.
Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I would like to enter into the RECORD a new story from the Florida Naples Daily News which headlines ``Private School with Ties to Terrorists gets State Money'' through a private tuition voucher program.
And I appreciate the comments from the gentleman from Washington State. It is true that the mayor supports dollars for vouchers which I disagree with. It is also true, and I think fair to say, that this is not the proposal that the mayor supports. He supports a three-pronged approach that is not what is going to be before us today, and I sincerely appreciate all the work that the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) has done on behalf of the District, but this is not a proposal that
the mayor supports nor is it a proposal that the City Council supports. So to say this has the support of the District, I think, is really kind of twisting things slightly.
[From the Florida Naples Daily News, July 18, 2003]
Private School With Ties to Alleged Terrorist Gets State Money
TAMPA.--Senate Democrats urged Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday to cut off payment to a school co-founded by a professor accused of being the North American leader of a worldwide terrorist organization.
The school received $350,000 last year through a state program that pays private school tuition for some students.
A February grand jury indictment against Sami Al-Arian, the alleged leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and seven others says the school was used as a base of support for the organization.
The indictment said the purpose of the organization was ``to assist its engagement in, and promotion of, violent attacks designed to thwart the Middle East Peace Process.'' It said the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is responsible for 100 murders in Israel and its territories.
Al-Arian, who is being held in jail without bail and denies any connections to terrorism, co-founded the school in 1992 and served as its director and chairman of its board.
The school's treasurer, Sameeh Hammoudeh, also was indicted and is being held in jail without bond. He and Al-Arian allegedly encouraged people who wanted to send money to Palestinians to write checks to their school. The Palm Beach Post reported in its Thursday editions.
Last year, the 300-student Islamic Academy of Florida received more than 50 percent of its revenue from the state program, Florida PRIDE, which uses corporate donations to pay for poor students to attend private schools.
``The disclosures that more than $300,000 of this money went last year to a school suspected of terrorist ties raises the frightening specter that Florida's taxpayers may be unwittingly funding extremist organizations intent on the destruction of our nation and its allies,'' Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein and Senator Dave Aronberg wrote in their letter to Gov. Jeb Bush.
Denise Lasher, spokeswoman for Florida PRIDE, said officials conducted an independent audit of the school after the indictment was released and found no misuse of funds and no connection between the scholarship money and terrorist activity.
She said the school received more than $300,000 in federal grants for computers and its free- and reduced-price school lunch program.
``It was unfortunate that there was someone at the school accused of doing something [Page: H7962]
illegal, but that doesn't mean the school has done something illegal,'' she said Thursday.
But although Florida PRIDE found that all of its scholarship money was going to the school, Hammoudeh was paid for his services as school treasurer, and the indictment states that school supplies and equipment were used in the Jihad operation. It is unknown whether Al-Arian was being paid.
Corporations that donate to the program receive a dollar-for-dollar tax break. The program gave out nearly $50 million in scholarships last year.
Since the program began, large corporations such as WCI Communities Inc., Gulf Power Co., Florida Power & Light and Verizon Wireless have donated to the program, but how much and to which program is not public information.
Critics of the corporate tax credit scholarship program are concerned that there is no government oversight of the schools that take the money. In their letter to Bush, Klein and Aronberg called for a review of the program and of the schools.
Under the May 2001 law, the Florida Department of Education cannot dictate curriculum or monitor how students are progressing academically.
But Lasher insisted the schools teachers and students and teachers are top notch academically.
Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, jokingly said in May that he could start a school for witches under the law and receive corporate tax credit scholarships.
``The intent of this program was to help poor kids. The intent was never to make opportunistic entrepreneurs wealthy,'' said King, who also ordered a study of the program.
Despite the accountability concerns, Bush remained a supporter, saying last week that it was a ``proven success,'' based on the students receiving the scholarships.
Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the Tampa school is well respected. He noted that the University of South Florida is also mentioned in the indictment.
But USF, where Al-Arian was a professor and Hammoudeh was an instructor, is not listed as one of the bases of support for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Administrators at the Islamic Academy did not return phone calls Thursday.
Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).