Mayor Williams and 10 Councilmembers
opposed school vouchers in 1998
[As we write in July 2003, several DC elected officials have either flip-flopped or are vacillating in their positions on publicly-funded vouchers for private schools. Below are their statements on the issue from their signed responses to GLAA candidate questionnaires in 1998. Please use this evidence to help us hold them accountable for keeping their promises. To contact them, see GLAA's contact list for DC Officials or visit the Mayor's website and the Council's website.]
1998 Mayoral Questionnaire
Question 24. Proposals for establishing a system of vouchers for private schools, whether here or elsewhere around the country, would funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools controlled by denominations that frequently are aggressively homophobic. Will you oppose any legislation authorizing vouchers for religious schools?
Mayor Anthony Williams - 1998 Mayoral Questionnaire:
I oppose vouchers using public money for any private schools, religious or otherwise. Public money should be used for public education, including charter schools.
Councilmember Harold Brazil (At Large) - 1998 Mayoral Questionnaire:
No such legislation is likely to come from D.C.’s elected leadership. It is the Republican-controlled Congress which is eager to toy with the District’s school system, and I will certainly be vocal in my opposition to any such allocation of the District’s tax dollars. I have great confidence that President Clinton is of the same view and would veto any such legislation.
Nevertheless, the District has given Congress an opening to meddle in this most local decision because of the poor performance of our schools and school system in the past ten years. There is nothing more important to this city than education. I have proposed a comprehensive six-point plan that focuses our attention on how well our children are doing rather than on how the system is doing.
My plan calls for tough new recertification and evaluation standards for teachers; an honest evaluation of how well each school performs; reducing class size for kindergarten through eighth grade; providing enrichment programs, including tutor/mentor programs and before- and after-school care, in partnership with the community; assuring that students who need them have access to alternative schools; and working towards smaller “smart schools” with state-of-the-art resources and enrollments of no more than 500 students.
The opportunities we create for our children are the keys to achieving all that we hope and dream for our city’s future; attracting families and businesses, lowering crime, lessening poverty, and preparing ourselves for the challenges of the 21st Century. I am confident that my plan represents a solid strategy for change, and I pledge to use the leadership of the mayor’s office to improve education every day I am in office.
Councilmember Kevin Chavous (Ward 7) - 1998 Mayoral Questionnaire:
I am opposed to vouchers. I believe they will further weaken our public schools.
Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2) - 1998 Mayoral Questionnaire:
I have been consistent in my opposition to vouchers for private schools and I agree that taxpayer dollars should not fund organizations which espouse discrimination. As such, I will use my office as a bully pulpit to rally against the nearly annual attempts by Congress to enforce vouchers on D.C.
Councilmember Carol Schwartz (At Large) - 1998 Mayoral Questionnaire:
Yes. I am opposed to vouchers, believe in the public school system, and have been actively lobbying the Congress against including vouchers in the D.C. Appropriation bill.
1998 Council Questionnaire
Question 15. Proposals for establishing a system of vouchers for private schools, whether here or elsewhere around the country, would funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools controlled by denominations that fr3equently are aggressively homophobic. Will you oppose any legislation authorizing vouchers for religious schools?
Councilmember Linda Cropp (Council Chair) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
Yes. I oppose the public funding of school vouchers for private schools. While, I respect the rights of parents to select private education for their children, including religious schools, I do not support the use of limited public school funds to support private education. I support the education reforms of our current Public School Superintendent and will continue to assist her in the implementation of these reform initiatives so that parents can chose a quality want a public education for their children.
Councilmember David Catania (At Large) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
Yes. I do not support the use of vouchers for religious schools. I do not believe that tax dollars should support religious schools.
Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At Large) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
Yes. I oppose any form of privatization that refers to vouchers or other mechanisms whereby students go to non-public schools -- religious or otherwise. We do not improve public schools by redirecting funding, students, and other resources to private schools. I am a product of public schooling; I know it can work. I believe there is a real value to the commonality of experience that children receive in the public schools. But our D.C. school system is not what it should be. Kids should be able to go to school and feel safe. They should be in an environment that is clean, and that fosters a sense of pride in themselves and their public school. Kids should want to learn. We have to provide security, repair the physical plant, install modern equipment in the labs and classrooms, reward teachers for their good work, and find ways to involve parents.
Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
Yes. Our tax dollars should not go to hate academies run by Pat Robertson or Louis Farrakhan. Legislation to authorize vouchers for religious schools would almost certainly be a death knell for the public school system. I believe there is a real value to the commonality of experience that kids get in the public school system and learning about the diversity of the real world. I am a product of public schools and I know they can work. We have a system that is broken. It must – and can be fixed. Arlene Ackerman has been on the job (as Superintendent ) for less than a year. Recently, the Washington Post ran an extensive article that gave high praise for this years’ summer school session. This should not have received the play that it did. We should not applaud that which is expected.
Lastly, as Eleanor Holmes Norton said of vouchers last week, " this is a bill that has become an excuse for indulging the controversial, social and financial whims of some members [of the House] that is unfair to you, unfair to me, and unfair to DC residents. Should any legislation be introduced during my term of office, I will not only oppose it, I will aggressively lobby against it.
Councilmember Kathy Patterson (Ward 3) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
I do not support local or federal tax dollars being used for vouchers for religious schools. Having said that, it is important to understand that there is a context within which tax dollars already follow children attending private schools - for food services, for example, when children meet the federal means test for free and reduced price lunches. There are private schools in the District, including ones with religious affiliations, that today offer better education to children than many of our local public schools. In our zeal to prevent public dollars from flowing to secular institutions, it is critical to fix the clear underlying problem and strengthen ALL District of Columbia public schools.
Councilmember Vincent Orange (Ward 5) - No Response
Councilmember Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6) - 1998 Council Questionnaire:
I oppose vouchers for education. I believe that we need to develop a first class public education system that serves all our children in public schools.