S 1502 -- 04/30/98

April 30, 1998

S. 1502 - District of Columbia Student Opportunity Scholarship Act
(Coats (R) Indiana and 4 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes S. 1502 because it would appropriate Federal taxpayer funds to pay for private school vouchers. If this bill were presented to the President, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the bill be vetoed.

S. 1502 would create a program of Federally funded vouchers that would divert critical resources that should be devoted to our public education priorities to private schools, with little or no public accountability for how funds are used. Moreover, the bill is apparently designed to ensure that receipt of these vouchers, unlike other Federal funds, would not require schools to comply with Federal civil rights laws that protect students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.

Instead of investing additional resources in public schools, vouchers would allow a few selected students to attend private schools, and would draw attention away from the hard work of reforming public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of D.C. students. Efforts should focus on approaches that will improve education for all children. The D.C. public school system has intensified such efforts with its Improved Student Achievement Initiative.

Under S. 1502, Federal taxpayers would be asked to provide up to $3,200 to each student with a voucher, nearly eight times the amount the Federal Government now makes available for public school children throughout the Nation. Establishing a private school voucher system in the Nation's Capital would set a dangerous precedent for using Federal taxpayer funds for schools that are not accountable to the public. This would be an extremely costly venture that could be a first step toward a nationalized voucher program at public expense. Choice among private schools should be paid for with private funds, with public funds used to provide choice among public schools.

Pay-As-You-Go Scoring

S. 1502 would increase direct spending; therefore it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990. The bill does not contain provisions to offset the increased direct spending. If the bill were enacted, it could contribute to a sequester of mandatory programs.

OMB's preliminary scoring estimate is that this bill would increase direct spending by a total of $7 million in FYs 1998 and 1999. Final scoring of this legislation may deviate from this estimate. If S. 1502 were enacted, final OMB scoring estimates would be published within seven working days of enactment, as required by OBRA. The cumulative effects of all enacted legislation on direct spending and receipts will be reported to Congress at the end of the Congressional session, as required by OBRA.