"Let D.C. Try Vouchers"
By Dianne Feinstein
Excerpted from The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 22, 2003; Page A17
Mayor Anthony Williams has proposed a five-year pilot program that would offer low-income parents a choice in where they send their children to school in the District. This proposal has the support of the president of the school board and thousands of District parents.
As a former mayor and a current member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am inclined to support Williams's effort to experiment with this program. I believe that education is a local issue and that if the mayor wants this program, it should be given the chance to work.
I have never before supported a voucher program. For 30 years, I have advocated strongly for our public schools, because I believe that they are the cornerstone of our education system. In my view, we must continue to do everything we can to strengthen and improve our nation's public schools.
Based on the substantial amount of money pumped into the schools and the resultant test scores, I do not believe that money alone is going to solve the problem. This is why I believe the District should be allowed to try this pilot -- particularly for the sake of its low-income students.
Ultimately this issue is not about ideology or political correctness. It is about providing a new opportunity for good education, which is the key to success. Unless a youngster has learned the fundamentals of education, he or she will find it extremely difficult when older to find work in the competitive marketplace.
If supporting the mayor's proposal will help us to better understand what works and what doesn't in terms of educating our youth, then I believe Williams should be allowed to undertake this experiment.