With quick action, the friends of public education fought off a March attempt to create a federal voucher program.
U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Rand Paul proposed to change Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the basic law providing federal education aid to poor children, into a voucher plan.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) Legislative Director Maggie Garrett heard rumors of a March 22 Senate floor vote on vouchers little more than two days before the event.
On March 21, Alexander and Paul declared in a press release that their measure would direct $4.5 billion in existing Title I funds to “follow low-income children to any accredited school, public or private.”
AU co-chairs the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a coalition with more than 50 member organizations.
Garrett arranged for a letter to the senators from NCPE. Leaders of NCPE’s member organizations talked with particular senators ahead of the vote. They called on their individual members to contact their own senators.
On March 22, Alexander and Paul introduced their scheme as an amendment to a budget bill. On that day, the Senate considered dozens of measures in a marathon session. Leadership limited remarks on any one bill to just two minutes.
On the floor, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin spoke against the scheme.
He said, “We have tried this before. The District of Columbia has a voucher program that we passed in Congress in 2003. And guess what they have found since 2003? It made no impact whatsoever on student achievement, and now the program is to the point it is being phased out.”
The Senators defeated the plan, 60-39.
N.Y. State Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand voted against