NSBA Action Alert: Urge Your Senators to Oppose Expanding Funding for Vouchers in the Budget Reconciliation/ COVID Recovery Bill

NSBA Action Alert:  Urge Your Senators to Oppose Expanding Funding for Vouchers in the Budget Reconciliation/ COVID Recovery Bill

The Senate is scheduled to begin votes today on the pending FY2021 Budget Reconciliation and COVID-19 Recovery legislation (H.R. 1319). We need your help to oppose a Senate provision that would provide $2.75 billion of taxpayer money in assistance to private schools.

You can contact your Senators through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121. Additional contact information is available here. Talking points are below.

While the House-passed version of this legislation includes provisions that are consistent with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ ESSA) requirements for equitable services to eligible students in private schools, the Senate version includes an additional provision, Section 2002 titled "Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools," that would provide $2.75 billion more to private schools. This addition would expand funding through the U.S. Department of Education's Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools program that was created last year (Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools - Office of Elementary and Secondary Education). Further, this new provision for private schools is similar to what was proposed in previous Senate legislation last year, titled the "Health, Economic Assistance, Liability [Protections], and Schools (HEALS) Act," which did not receive enough votes for cloture to begin floor debate.

While the House-passed bill authorizes equitable services consistent with the existing ESEA statute, the Senate version would establish a precedent to expand vouchers beyond ESEA equitable services and thus create another federal funding stream for private schools, rather than a limited form of assistance within existing law.

NSBA Position:  NSBA believes public tax dollars should only support public schools. NSBA opposes any efforts to subsidize tuition or expenses at elementary or secondary private schools, religious schools, or private home/correspondence schools with public tax dollars. Specifically, NSBA opposes vouchers, tax credits, and tax subsidies for use at non-public K-12 schools.

Talking Points

  • Thank you for your leadership to support our public schoolchildren and schools as we work to recover safely from COVID-19 and protect the lives and health of our students and educators. As you consider the budget reconciliation legislation (H.R. 1319), I urge you to oppose provisions that would increase federal funding for private education vouchers beyond equitable services provisions that are included in the bill.
  • Specifically, a newly added Section 2002 in the Senate's version of the budget reconciliation would include provisions for $2.75 billion in additional funding to private schools, beyond ESEA/ESSA equitable services. I urge you to oppose this provision that would provide support through taxpayer funds for a separate unaccountable system of education, which diverts public funding to private schools, private home schools, including virtual schools, regardless of whether they are owned or operated by individuals, religious institutions, not for profit entities, or corporations.
  • This proposed diversion of public funds outside of locally elected, locally accountable, representative oversight would fund private schools that do not provide the same civil rights protections to students as public school districts, such as those in the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Also, students who attend private schools using vouchers are not afforded First Amendment, due process, and other constitutional and statutory rights guaranteed to them in public schools.
  • Private schools have already received financial assistance from the federal government that public schools did not receive such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), along with funding from the CARES Act Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Also, payroll tax credits for COVID-19 related employee leave that were not authorized for public schools and other state and local government employers were made available to private schools. 
  • Again, I appreciate your leadership to support our students and urge that you reject provisions for vouchers to private schools in the budget reconciliation/ COVID recovery legislation.
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