As your constituent, I urge you to oppose H.R. 2556, the so-called "DC Parental Choice Incentive Act of 2003." This troubling legislation would divert millions of dollars in public funds to fund transportation, tuition and fees at private and religious schools in the District of Columbia.
Supporters of this bill contend that it will lead to greater parental choice in the District, but in reality, the vast majority of parents and students will not be given any new educational options. Even those few who do receive vouchers to attend private schools will have limited options as the decision whether or not to admit a child will remain firmly in the hands of participating private schools. Simply put, vouchers finance discrimination in education. Public schools must accept and educate all students, including those from diverse backgrounds, learning levels and abilities. Religious and private schools, on the other hand, are allowed to pick and choose which students they admit. Further, religious schools are not required to comply with many federal civil rights laws and can exclude a student based on his or her religion, gender or learning or physical disabilities.
A voucher program in DC would undermine local control of education. I have read that the voters of the District have long opposed schemes that divert public funds to private schools. It would be tyrannical to impose on DC residents and their children a program that they have so strongly opposed.
Finally, school voucher schemes such as this one would force taxpayers to support religious beliefs and practices with which they may strongly disagree. At the heart of these proposals is the goal of merging church and state and having public funds diverted to private and parochial schools. Religious schools represent the vast majority of private schools in the United States. These schools serve as arms of religious ministries and incorporate religious values and doctrine throughout their curriculum and should not be funded by taxpayer dollars.
Again, I urge you to oppose H.R. 2556. Congress must not divert funds to a voucher program that is designed to help only a few students, leaving the vast majority behind in schools that are already underfunded.
It's worth noting that AmeriCorps actually does have some real problems aside from funding, laregly because of its decentralization, which makes accounting difficult. There were also some problems with Leslie Lenkowsky, the guy Bush put in charge, who not only didn't want to improve centralized accounting, but wanted to "voucherize" the program such that it would've had to account for every person separately rather than disbursing funds through organized charities (which are of course much easier to investigate and accredit). In any case, slashing the budget and letting the program wither away seems rather premature; it's been a quite successful program overall, and fixing it wouldn't be all that hard. But the Rs don't think we should have social programs at all, so...
I am writing to urge you to support volunteerism by restoring the funding levels for AmeriCorps to a level that will allow it to continue supporting existing projects and to enable the program to expand in the future.
President Bush has used many high profile speeches, including the State of the Union address, to call on citizens to commit to volunteerism and community service. Since 1993, AmeriCorps has fostered this kind of community service by connecting more that a quarter million volunteers with projects to help out in their communities. But even so, this year AmeriCorps is suffering drastic cuts to its budget. And this really matters to lots of volunteers and the kids and communities they help.
The program is short by so much money that there will be approximately 20,000 fewer slots available this year. Newsweek reports that "with a measly $185 million supplemental appropriation (about one half of 1 percent of the latest tax cut)" the program could fully fund the 50,000 slots in place last year.
Please restore full funding for AmeriCorps.
I am writing to urge you to support funding the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) by supporting the Crowley amendment in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that reinstates U.S. funding for UNFPA.
While the congressionally-approved funds were withheld last year due to concerns about population programs in China, both U.S. and British fact-finding missions in China have found no evidence of a link between U.N. family planning funds and abortion or forced sterilization in China, and UNFPA funds are not used to promote or fund abortions as a method of family planning. UNFPA funds are used for pre- and post-natal care, voluntary contraceptive services, health services and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
The $34 million in denied funding accounted for 12.5% of the UNFPA budget. While the decision was made based on conjecture about one country, it's devastating to many countries that count on UNFPA programs. It's estimated that the loss of this funding will lead to two million unintended pregnancies, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths each year.
Please support the Crowley amendment when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act comes up for a vote.
I want to know the truth about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. and British attack. The existence of weapons of mass destruction was presented to the American people, the United Nations, and the U.S. Congress as a certainty. U.N. weapons inspectors did not find any evidence of such weapons. To date, U.S. and British military forces have also found no evidence of such weapons.
The integrity of the Bush Administration is now at stake. Did they possess clear and compelling evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, or was speculative evidence exaggerated, manipulated or made up?
In the absence of an independent prosecutor, I urge the Senate to immediately establish a select committee to hold hearings, with full powers to compel testimony by all relevant individuals, and publicly publish its results. A hearing behind closed doors of the existing Intelligence Committee is no substitute for a serious probe.