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H.R. 471, DC School Voucher Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. CHU. Yesterday, House leadership pushed through H.R. 471. I voted ``no'' because it does nothing to create jobs, hurts public education, and adds to the national deficit.

We have been back to work in the House for 13 weeks, and for 13 straight weeks the Republican majority has done nothing to create jobs. They haven't even put a single jobs bill on the House floor. In fact, their proposed spending bill actually costs America 700,000 jobs.

Now, Speaker Boehner has brought his own pet project bill to the House floor that imposes his desire to privatize public education in the District of Columbia, and he doesn't even represent the District. This bill would reauthorize the failed Washington, D.C., private school voucher program and open it to new students, funneling millions in new Federal spending to private schools at taxpayer expense. And yet, for the last 5 years, the voucher program has proven to be flawed and ineffective.

The voucher program has not been successful in raising student academic achievement. It has had no impact on student motivation and engagement. The program has had no effect on student satisfaction with their schools or on whether students view their schools as safe and orderly. And voucher students were less likely to have access to important services, such as programs for English language learners, programs for students with learning problems, counseling, and tutoring. Vouchers are an experiment that has been tried and has failed.

This anti-education bill comes at a time when the Republican leadership is proposing drastic reductions in Federal spending, including a House-passed bill slashing billions from core education programs. Vouchers are not real education reform. They don't solve problems. They ignore them.

Rather than offering an empty promise for a few, we should be ensuring that every child has access to a great public school. And instead of taking money out of public schools for private schools, Congress should be investing in strategies to improve school achievement. Our focus should be on strategies proven to increase student achievement, such as increasing parental involvement, strengthening teacher training, and reducing class size. And our goal should be to prepare all students for the jobs of the future, not to allow a few students and parents to choose a private school at taxpayer expense.

When public schools are struggling and teachers are being laid off, the last thing we need is to spend scarce taxpayer funds on private schools. And that's exactly what this legislation will do. Speaker Boehner's bill will increase the deficit by $300 million, $300 million that could go towards making sure America's public school students and public school teachers have the resources they need to succeed. Speaker Boehner's bill offers no offsets. It is an ideological effort to recreate a program that was ended years ago because it did not work.

It is time for Republicans to stop playing political games with our public education and America's economic future. And so I ask my colleagues across the aisle to join with Democrats to reduce the deficit, protect our public schools, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class.

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