Federal Education Bill Escapes Congressional Markup Without Voucher Amendments

June 24, 2013

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill has escaped U.S. Senate and House education committees free of any amendments to create a federal school voucher program, which would funnel taxpayer dollars intended for the public school system to private and religious schools. 

As we noted last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) considered its ESEA reauthorization bill, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, on June 12. The HELP Committee voted on several amendments, one of which would have allowed Title I funding— possibly as much as $14 billion —to go to private and religious schools. That amendment was proposed by by Sen. Rand. Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

Leading up to the vote, the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy collaborated with colleagues in the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) to write a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the HELP Committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), ranking member, to explain why we strongly oppose vouchers. Several member groups of the NCPE also worked together to lobby key senators. In the end, the amendment failed 14-8.

The House Education and Workforce Committee considered its reauthorization bill one week later, on June 19. The NCPE again wrote a letter, this time to Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chair of the committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member, to explain why we strongly oppose vouchers. Surprisingly, no voucher amendments were proposed during markup. 

The ESEA reauthorization bills will likely not reach the Senate and House floors until the fall, at which time new amendments could be proposed. CFI remains dedicated to defending public education as a common good, and protecting taxpayer dollars from being used for private and sectarian religious education. We will keep our supporters updated as the situation develops.