AFSA Helps Stop Voucher Plan

Working on Capitol Hill in March, AFSA’s legislative team strongly opposed Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy’s proposed school voucher amendment tied to H.R. 5, also known as the "Parental Rights and Quality Improvement Act" or the "Parents Bill of Rights." The proposed legislation seeks to protect the rights of parents in the education and upbringing of their children.

Roy’s amendment to the bill would have fundamentally altered Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by allowing the diversion of federal public school dollars to private schools and homeschoolers. This would undermine public school financing and remove critical resources intended to assist our nation’s disadvantaged and at-risk students. By opposing the amendment, AFSA worked to protect the resources and funding necessary to provide quality education to all students in public schools.

In a letter to House of Representative members, AFSA President Dr. Leonard Pugliese wrote:

  •  “AFSA has a long tradition of opposition to private school voucher schemes. At our 2018 Convention, we passed a resolution that underscored our commitment to a high-quality public education and declared our opposition to local, state and federal funding being stripped from public schools and diverted to private schools that are unaccountable to the public.
  • “As the AFSA resolution makes clear, we object to proposals like Mr. Roy’s because they prop up private schools that do not have to open their doors to all students, regardless of race or economic background” and are not subject to the same accountability systems, including mandatory assessments, as public schools.
  • “Rather than pursuing such nefarious legislation, we urge Congress to focus on investing in public education students and educators as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than destabilizing the public system that educates nine out of every 10 students in the United States by offering incentives to abandon it, Congress should be grappling with the real issues that public schools face currently: educator shortages, staff and student mental health challenges, and the effects of disruption and missed instructional time on students.
  •  “Public education is the beacon of our democracy. Rep. Roy’s resolution would dim that beacon by reducing its funding. Don’t let that happen.
  • “AFSA urges you to vote 'No' on the Roy amendment to H.R. 5, which would support vouchers.”

 The Roy plan was voted down—an important victory at the federal level for public education at a time when many state legislatures are considering and passing private school voucher legislation.

In general, opponents of H.R. 5 argue that the bill could have negative implications for child welfare and education policies. Some critics have raised concerns that the bill would give parents too much control over their children's education and well-being, potentially allowing them to make decisions that could unduly restrict all students accessing books and curricular materials that a minority of parents find objectionable. Others worry that the bill could be used to justify discriminatory practices or limit the rights of marginalized groups.

One of the main criticisms of the bill is that it could make it harder for educators and child welfare professionals to intervene in cases of child abuse or neglect. For example, if parents have the right to opt out of certain medical procedures/screenings or refuse certain types of education for their children, it could be more difficult for professionals to identify and address issues related to the physical and mental health of students.

Critics also argue that the bill could have a negative impact on education policies, potentially limiting the ability of schools to provide comprehensive and inclusive education to all students. For example, if parents have the right to opt their children out of certain topics or subjects, it could limit the ability of schools to provide comprehensive sex education or teach about diverse perspectives and cultures.

H.R. 5 passed on a narrow, mainly party-line vote. It is not expected to be taken up by the Senate.