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Councilmember Kevin P. Chavous
Letter to President George W. Bush on vouchers
July 3, 2003




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President Bush’s remarks at KIPP:DC KEY Academy


Councilmember-Ward 7 Chairman
Education. Libraries and Recreation
(202) 724-8068

July 3, 2003

The President
The White House 
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I appreciated the opportunity to meet with you, at the KIPP Academy event on July 1, 2003, and hear you speak about your vision for educating the nation's children. Like you Mr. President, I share the view that establishing a culture of success in our schools requires three fundamental elements: encourage more parental involvement; set high achievement standards for students; and demand accountability from all school districts throughout the country. I'm particularly encouraged by your impassioned support of the educational welfare of all District of Columbia school children. With that in mind, however, I am dismayed by an important omission in your remarks. Your comments did not intimate that the Parental Choice and Incentive Act of 2003 is one strand of a comprehensive three sector local strategy to expand school choice options in the District.

My support for a federally funded local scholarship program has always been contingent upon support for a three sector approach to school choice: scholarships, charter schools, and the traditional public school system. Moreover, since the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system will always be the primary educational delivery system, we need to remain committed to strengthening this sector which serves the majority of the District's children. I maintain that this comprehensive three sector strategy should allocate more funds to DCPS. To that end, it is critical that DCPS receives, as I have suggested, a minimum of an additional $30 million new dollars. I will not support a scholarship program unless a commitment to this sector is realized.

Hence, Mr. President it is with this in mind that I urge you, Secretary Rod Paige, and members of Congress to work with the Mayor, my Council colleagues, and the school board to support the appropriation of new federal money for DCPS. Candidly, I will not, and cannot in good conscience support a scholarship program, unless there is a commitment to DCPS. Furthermore, should DCPS be excluded from this comprehensive school choice strategy, I will encourage my colleagues at the Council to adopt a resolution in opposition to this scholarship plan.

Once again, Mr. President I enjoyed our meeting and discussion. Further, I commend you on your commitment and courage to ensuring that our nation's schools leave no child behind in a poorly performing school. I look forward to meeting you again and the ensuing rich exchange of creative ideas to address the needs of the country's school children. I remain excited at the prospect of this new partnership between the District of Columbia and your administration. Mr. President, we can work together to make the nation's capital a model of public education excellence.

Kevin P. Chavous
Chair, Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Cc:   Secretary Rod Paige
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton 
Congressman John Boehner 
Congressman Tom Davis 
Senator Judd Gregg
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen 
Mayor Anthony Williams 
Council of the District of Columbia 
Superintendent Paul Vance
District of Columbia Board of Education

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