08 Jul 2003 Project 21 Press Release: Black Network Applauds Proposed Voucher Plan for Nation’s Capital: Parent Choice Initiative Could Serve as Model for Communities Nationwide
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 applaud congressional efforts to create a school voucher program that will aid impoverished students living in our nation’s capital.
A proposal introduced by U.S. Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) aims to provide monetary school vouchers to students who come from families subsisting at 185 percent below the poverty level and attending underperforming public schools. These vouchers could be used to pay for tuition expenses at any other public or private schools in Washington, D.C. In doing this, Flake and his supporters hope to give impoverished families more control over their children’s ability to receive a quality education and force underperforming schools to improve their standards at the risk of losing their student bodies.
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams and D.C. School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, both African-American, are backing Flake’s initiative. A committee vote on his bill is expected in early July.
“The embattled boys and girls of the District of Columbia Public Schools have a new best friend named Jeff Flake,” said Project 21 member Deroy Murdock. “Representative Flake’s voucher plan will provide choice, competition and a serious chance for the District’s students finally to be challenged and succeed.”
President George W. Bush, during a visit to a Washington, D.C. charter school on July 1, spoke out in favor of school vouchers. He said, “I want [Washington, D.C.] to become a model of excellence so that when people see the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in D.C., they realize they can do the same in their own communities.” He has called for $75 million to be spent on a national “school choice” incentive plan. Vouchers are already in use in Florida, Maine, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, and in several cities nationwide.
Despite fierce liberal opposition, voucher programs have been proven to work — and they are very popular among African-Americans. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies recently reported that 60 percent of African-Americans support vouchers. In contrast, 69 percent of African-American elected officials break with the overwhelming majority of their constituents to oppose them. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard University researchers, black students who received vouchers scored 8.4 percentage points higher in reading and math portions of standardized tests.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.