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Gray, Civic Groups Oppose Voucher Program

By Tom Sherwood
|  Thursday, Apr 14, 2011  |  Updated 8:38 PM EDT
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District Mayor Vincent Gray kept up his attacks on Capitol Hill and President Barack Obama today.

Tom Sherwood

District Mayor Vincent Gray kept up his attacks on Capitol Hill and President Barack Obama today.

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Mayor Vincent Gray joined civic groups on Thursday to oppose a school voucher/scholarship program being imposed by national Republicans in Congress by using the 2011 budget fight.

Congress is expected to approve the program when it votes on the compromise budget deal soon.

The program, begun in the early 2000s, pays $7,500 a year for up to 1,700 students in city public schools to attend private schools.

The Obama administration killed the program -- closing it off to new applicants -- last year. But it was revived by the majority Republicans.

Opponents say the program is selective, taking only motivated students, and that much of the money goes to private Catholic schools that discriminate against gays and lesbians and others.

Mayor Gray said the measure also imposes a program on city residents without their having a say so.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton agrees.

"Republican majority refused to allow my amendment to be brought to the House floor that would redirect voucher money to D.C. public schools and public charter schools. Yet, the District will have no vote on the House floor on the continuing resolution, in which the District is the only jurisdiction involved," she said in a release. "D.C. residents will not sit silently while the Congress dismantles our home rule piece by piece or instructs us on how to educate our children.”

Supporters say the program helps school children now rather than waiting for school reform. The 13-member council is roughly evenly split on the issue.

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