In advance of tomorrow’s expected Senate floor consideration of an amendment that would federally fund ten school choice demonstration programs around the country, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, urged Senators to support the experiment in school reform. The amendment, to be offered by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), would authorize fifty million dollars for fiscal 2002 and similar sums for subsequent years through 2009 for the demonstration programs. The programs would be established on the basis of competitive applications by local officials and would require the programs to be targeted toward low-income children.
Nathan Diament, director of the Union’s Institute for Public Affairs issued the following statement:
In its consideration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Senate has made important strides to bolster public education in the face of new challenges and ensure the implementation of measures to more closely monitor the educational progress of America’s children. But it is time for America to take a step toward exploring further ways to promote educational excellence – a critical component of which is parental empowerment.
The proposed School Choice Demonstration amendment is just that, a step toward finding out how empowering parents — especially low-income parents, to make educational decisions for their children through the distribution of federally funded tuition vouchers — impacts upon educational opportunity.
The debate over this aspect of education policy is highly politicized with proponents and opponents making assertions to support their position. It’s time to do some experimentation and fact-finding. We can then have a responsible debate. The Senate should support school choice experimentation.