Senators voted against legislation Tuesday that would have given low-income students in K-12 schools the same thing that low-income preschoolers and college students enjoy: The ability to take their federal funding to whatever school they choose.
Arguing in favor of his amendment to a K-12 education bill, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., compared school vouchers to Pell Grants for college students. "[Opponents] forget that the federal government already authorizes vouchers for education, we just call them Pell Grants" Scott said. Scott's amendment would have applied only to the federal portion of education funding: Roughly 14 percent, depending on the student.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who has been guiding the main legislation to replace No Child Left Behind through the Senate, compared school vouchers to the G.I. Bill and the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.
"We have vouchers for parents with three and four and five and six year olds," Alexander said. "We have vouchers for students who are 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old. And somehow we think there's something wrong with having vouchers for elementary and high school students."
Alexander told the story of a Tennessee student who had just graduated high school and community college at the same time. The student will start at Purdue this fall with enough credits to be the equivalent of a second semester sophomore.
"We have a voucher to help him pay, if he's low income, to go to Walter State Community College, but somehow there's something wrong with a voucher to allow him to choose among the public high schools he attends. That doesn't make a lot of sense."
Alexander also compared school vouchers to the part of the G.I. Bill that allowed veterans to use federal dollars towards tuition at the university of their choosing.
Scott's amendment failed, with 45 votes in favor and 51 against. Sixty votes were required for passage. Every Democrat voted against the amendment. Seven Republicans voted against: Roy Blunt, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Deb Fischer, Mark Kirk, Jerry Moran and Lisa Murkowski.
Last week, a similar Alexander amendment failed. That amendment would have let federal funds follow low-income students to any public or private school. That amendment failed with 45 votes in favor and 52 against, with no Democrats in favor and eight Republicans against.