Previous DC Voucher Proposals

Published May 1, 2003

In 1995, the U.S. House passed an amendment to the FY96 Appropriations bill for the District of Columbia that would provide low-income DC students with vouchers to attend DC private schools or receive supplementary services. The measure was dropped from the House-Senate conference committee bill when opponents vowed a filibuster.

There were unsuccessful attempts in 1997 and 1998 to attach DC voucher legislation to the District of Columbia Appropriations Acts.

The District of Columbia Student Opportunity Scholarship Act of 1998, Senate Bill 1502, passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by President Bill Clinton on May 20, 1998. The measure would have created a DC “Scholarship Corporation” to administer vouchers for low-income students to attend public or private schools in DC and nearby suburbs, or to pay for out-of-school-time special programs. The measure was introduced by Sen. Dan Coats and cosponsored by Senators Sam Brownback, Mary Landrieu, Judd Gregg, and Joseph Lieberman. There was an attempt in August of that year to resurrect the measure, but it stalled in the House.

In 2002, Rep. Richard Armey introduced House Bill 5033, the District of Columbia Student Opportunity Scholarship Act of 2002, which attracted 67 cosponsors. Senator Judd Gregg introduced its companion in the Senate; cosponsors were Sam Brownback, Larry Craig, and Tim Hutchinson. The bills did not make it out of committee.

Rep. Jeff Flake and Senator Judd Gregg introduced the DC Student Opportunity Scholarship Act of 2003 to establish a “District of Columbia Scholarship Fund,” managed by a publicly appointed board of directors, that provides vouchers for low-income students to attend schools in DC and nearby suburbs or receive supplementary services.

President George W. Bush included a “Choice Incentive Fund” in his FY04 budget proposal to provide $75 million in competitive grants to states, school districts, and community organizations to expand school choice for students in low-performing schools. A portion of the funds would be reserved for the District of Columbia.