GLAA to Council: oppose school vouchers
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GLAA to Council: oppose school vouchers

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139

July 3, 2003

The Honorable Linda Cropp
Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20013

Dear Mrs. Cropp:

We are writing to express our strong opposition to the plan endorsed by President Bush and endorsed by Mayor Williams to authorize $15 million in federal taxpayer funds to finance a voucher program for students enrolled in D.C. private schools.

In particular, we are writing to encourage the Council to adopt an emergency resolution that Councilmember Adrian Fenty plans to introduce at your July 8 legislative session to put the Council firmly on record against this scheme.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) has opposed private school vouchers for decades, going back at least to the 1981 referendum on the issue. You will recall that 89 percent of District voters gave a thumbs-down to vouchers in that election. Recent polls indicate that most D.C. voters remain opposed.

Until recently, virtually all elected officials in the District were also opposed to vouchers. We are dismayed that Mayor Williams and Councilmember Chavous have now flip-flopped, apparently in hopes of securing additional federal funding for our public schools in exchange for their support for vouchers. Recent news from Capitol Hill indicates that these hopes for additional funding may in fact not be realized, leaving Messrs. Williams and Chavous as dupes in a classic bait-and-switch.

Private school vouchers are especially problematic for the gay and lesbian community because most such funds will be used to subsidize sectarian schools run by religious organizations that are notoriously discriminatory and homophobic -- chiefly schools controlled by the Roman Catholic Church and various fundamentalist sects.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, openly gay and lesbian students will be subject to harassment by their peers, teachers, and staff and can be summarily expelled -- and the victims have no legal recourse.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, gay and nongay students will not be protected by the federal Equal Access Act if they want to form Gay/Straight Alliances, as has been done in hundreds of public schools around the country.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, gay and lesbian teachers and other employees can be arbitrarily disciplined and even dismissed, as happened to a lesbian employee in an Arlington diocese school a few months ago --and the victims have no legal recourse.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, gay and lesbian students will not be provided life-saving information about safe sex practices but instead will be subjected to the cult of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education -- which denies their very existence by consigning them to lifelong celibacy.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, all students will be subjected to rabidly homophobic religious and political teachings, designed to turn students into anti-gay activists for the Religious Right.

In these taxpayer-subsidized sectarian schools, school authorities will stoutly resist any attempts at accountability by governmental officials -- claiming immunity in the name of (ironically enough) religious freedom.

GLAA has fought for more than three decades to secure equal rights for gays and lesbians of all ages in the District of Columbia. We are not about to sit back while educational institutions dedicated to ignoring those protections are showered with our own tax dollars.


Kevin Davis

Cc: All Councilmembers
All School Board Members
Mayor Anthony Williams
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

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