ACLU Applauds Call For Additional Money for Public Schools, Calls President's Voucher Proposals Divisive

January 23, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded President George W. Bush for his proposal to add significant new resources to the nation’s public schools, but said that his plan to use vouchers to divert tax money to private schools threatened to destroy any beneficial elements of his plan.

“The Bush plan represents an enormous gamble with our educational system and it is out of step with our nation’s tradition of equal education for all,” said Terri Ann Schroeder, an ACLU Legislative Representative. “While some children may receive vouchers and get into private or religious schools, others will be left with poorer public schools with fewer resources, teachers, textbooks and activities. This is a chance that we cannot as a nation afford to take.”

The ACLU said that the Bush proposal seemed very much like those proposed by Congressional Republicans last year. Those divisive proposals, the ACLU noted, caused the failure of efforts last year to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides about $44 billion in federal programs aimed at poorest of the nation’s 53 million schoolchildren.

As part of his multi-billion dollar plan, Bush has proposed to give $1,500 vouchers to the parents of students in public schools that are deemed to have failed for three years in a row. The vouchers could be used in private religious schools.

“Voucher programs offer only the illusion of ‘choice’ for the vast majority of public school students,” Schroeder said. “At best, they increase the opportunities of a handful of children who will be carefully selected by private schools that have the luxury of deciding whom they want to admit.”

The ACLU has long opposed vouchers, saying that they will create a two-tiered system of public education by limiting opportunities for some children, especially those living in the inner cities. Most vouchers programs fund all religious and private schools — regardless of whether they discriminate against students because of learning or physical disabilities, religion or gender, Schroeder added.

The ACLU noted that a study funded by a pro-voucher Republican administration in Ohio failed to find any improvement in the educational performance of students who received vouchers over those who did not. And voters in California and Michigan soundly rejected voucher schemes in last fall’s elections.

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