Norton Blasts Banks for Introduction of D.C. Bill Meddling in Public Education in Another Member’s District

Jun 6, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today blasted Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) for introducing a bill that would require the District of Columbia to create, fund and administer education savings accounts (ESAs) for tuition and other private educational expenses for D.C. students who have experienced a “safety issue” at school, ranging from bullying to food safety.  The District would be required to put its local funds into the ESAs, based on per pupil funding at public schools, as well as to provide taxpayers with a 100% tax credit against income taxes for donations to ESAs.  The bill appears to be based on a concept developed by a conservative think tank.  The bill’s title is the Child Safety Accounts Act.

“This is the second Republican bill introduced this Congress to try and force the District to switch funds from its public schools to pay for private school tuition,” Norton said.  “Congress has repeatedly rejected private school vouchers nationally, yet Republicans, including Rep. Banks, hypocritically, have no problem imposing them on my district.  Representative Banks, a two-term Member, is trying to create a voucher program, apparently in service to a conservative think tank rather than his own constituents, under the guise of student safety, as if he were Mayor of the District, clearly without knowing anything about this city or its schools.  If he believes his bill is such good policy, why has he singled out the District rather than introduce a nationwide bill?  D.C. gives its residents a robust public school choice system, including public charter schools, which enroll nearly half of our public school students.  What alternatives are offered in Rep. Banks’ district to parents who would like an alternative to his district’s public schools?  His constituents sent him here to bring home benefits to them, but instead he is spending his time on our district instead of his own.  I kept such politically self-serving interference from passing even when Democrats were in the minority, and I expect my colleagues in the House majority to do the same with Banks’ bill.”

In January, Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) reintroduced an ESA bill that would also force D.C. to directly fund ESAs with its local funds for all D.C. students.  The Banks and Meadows bills are different than the federal private school voucher Congress imposed on the District.  The existing voucher program is funded by the federal government and available only to low-income students.