House Passes Education Bill Without School Voucher Plan

The House of Representatives this week defeated a Republican plan that would have allowed public funds to be used to finance tuition at private and parochial schools.

Jewish groups had lobbied against the plan, which they see as weakening public education and breaching the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

The proposal to provide vouchers that parents could use to send their children to public or private schools was offered in amendments to a bill allocating $846 million to state and local governments to reform public schools.

That bill was passed by the House by a vote of 279-124, enough of a margin to override an expected veto by President Bush, who strongly supports vouchers.

The Senate passed a similar education reform bill last month without a private-school voucher provision.

Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress, wrote in a letter he circulated to all members of the House this week that such “school choice” plans are “bad public policy and of dubious constitutionality.”

He said they would “not only weaken the federal government’s commitment to provide equal educational access for all children, but will essentially coerce all citizens to pay for private education and religious training.”

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