Home > 106th Congressional Bills > H.R. 2557 (ih) To direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a feasibility study on the inclusion in Biscayne National Park, Florida, of the archaeological site known as the Miami Circle. [Introduced in House] ...

H.R. 2557 (ih) To direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a feasibility study on the inclusion in Biscayne National Park, Florida, of the archaeological site known as the Miami Circle. [Introduced in House] ...


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108th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 2556

  To provide low-income parents residing in the District of Columbia, 
  particularly parents of students who attend elementary or secondary 
schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring 
 under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 
  with expanded opportunities for enrolling their children in higher-
performing schools in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                             June 23, 2003

  Mr. Tom Davis of Virginia (for himself, Mr. Boehner, Mr. Weldon of 
   Florida, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Shays, Mr. Carter, Mr. Wilson of South 
 Carolina, Mr. Ehlers, and Mr. DeMint) introduced the following bill; 
        which was referred to the Committee on Government Reform

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
  To provide low-income parents residing in the District of Columbia, 
  particularly parents of students who attend elementary or secondary 
schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring 
 under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 
  with expanded opportunities for enrolling their children in higher-
performing schools in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``DC Parental Choice Incentive Act of 
2003''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds the following:
            (1) Parents are best equipped to make decisions for their 
        children, including the educational setting that will best 
        serve the interests and educational needs of their child.
            (2) For many parents in the District of Columbia, public 
        school choice provided for under the No Child Left Behind Act 
        of 2001 is inadequate due to capacity constraints within the 
        public schools. Therefore, in keeping with the spirit of the No 
        Child Left Behind Act of 2001, school choice options, in 
        addition to those already available to parents in the District 
        of Columbia (such as magnet and charter schools and open 
        enrollment schools) should be made available to those parents.
            (3) In the most recent mathematics assessment on the 
        National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 
        administered in 2000, a lower percentage of 4th-grade students 
        in DC demonstrated proficiency than was the case for any State. 
        Seventy-six percent of DC fourth-graders scored at the ``below 
        basic'' level and of the 8th-grade students in the District of 
        Columbia, only 6 percent of the students tested at the 
        proficient or advanced levels, and 77 percent were below basic. 
        In the most recent NAEP reading assessment, in 1998, only 10 
        percent of DC fourth-graders could read proficiently, while 72 
        percent were below basic. At the 8th-grade level, 12 percent 
        were proficient or advanced and 56 percent were below basic.
            (4) A program enacted for the valid secular purpose of 
        providing educational assistance to low-income children in a 
        demonstrably failing public school system is constitutional 
        under Zelman v. Simmons-Harris if it is neutral with respect to 
        religion and provides assistance to a broad class of citizens 
        who direct government aid to schools solely as a result of 
        their independent private choices.

SEC. 3. PURPOSE.

    The purpose of this Act is to provide low-income parents residing 
in the District of Columbia, particularly parents of students who 
attend elementary or secondary schools identified for improvement, 
corrective action, or restructuring under section 1116 of the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6316), with 
expanded opportunities for enrolling their children in higher-
performing schools in the District of Columbia.

SEC. 4. GENERAL AUTHORITY.

    (a) Authority.--From funds appropriated to carry out this Act, the 
Secretary shall award grants on a competitive basis to eligible 
entities with approved applications under section 5 to carry out 
activities to provide eligible students with expanded school choice 
opportunities. The Secretary may award a single grant or multiple 
grants, depending on the quality of applications submitted and the 
priorities of this Act.
    (b) Duration of Grants.--The Secretary may make grants under this 
section for a period of not more than 5 years.

SEC. 5. APPLICATIONS.

    (a) In General.--In order to receive a grant under this Act, an 
eligible entity shall submit an application to the Secretary at such 
time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the 
Secretary may require.
    (b) Contents.--The Secretary may not approve the request of an 
eligible entity for a grant under this Act unless the entity's 
application includes--
            (1) a detailed description of--
                    (A) how the entity will address the priorities 
                described in section 6;
                    (B) how the entity will select eligible students to 
                participate in the program, including how it will 
                ensure that if more eligible students participating in 
                the program seek admission in a participating school 
                than the school can accommodate, eligible students are 
                selected for admission through a random selection 
                process;
                    (C) how the entity will notify parents of eligible 
                students of the expanded choice opportunities;
                    (D) the activities that the entity will carry out 
                to provide parents of eligible students with expanded 
                choice opportunities through the awarding of 
                scholarships under section 7(a);
                    (E) how the entity will determine the amount that 
                will be provided to parents for the tuition, fees, and 
                transportation expenses, if any;
                    (F) how the entity will seek out private elementary 
                and secondary schools in the District of Columbia to 
                participate in the program, and will ensure that 
                participating schools will meet the applicable 
                requirements of this Act and provide the information 
                needed for the entity to meet the reporting 
                requirements of this Act; and
                    (G) how the entity will ensure that participating 
                schools are financially responsible; and
            (2) an assurance that the entity will comply with all 
        requests regarding any evaluation carried out under section 9.

SEC. 6. PRIORITIES.

    In awarding grants under this Act, the Secretary shall give 
priority to applications from eligible entities who will most 
effectively--
            (1) give priority to eligible students who attend an 
        elementary or secondary school identified for improvement, 
        corrective action, or restructuring under section 1116 of the 
        Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 
        6316);
            (2) target resources to students and families that lack the 
        financial resources to take advantage of available educational 
        options;
            (3) provide students and families with the widest range of 
        educational options; and
            (4) serve students of varying age and grade levels.

SEC. 7. USE OF FUNDS.

    (a) Scholarships.--
            (1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2) and (3), a 
        grantee shall use the grant funds to provide eligible students 
        with scholarships to pay the tuition, fees, and transportation 
        expenses, if any, to enable them to attend the District of 
        Columbia private elementary or secondary school of their 
        choice. Each grantee shall ensure that the amount of any 
        tuition or fees charged by a school participating in the 
        grantee's program under this Act to an eligible student 
        participating in the program does not exceed the amount of 
        tuition or fees that the school customarily charges to students 
        who do not participate in the program.
            (2) Payments to parents.--A grantee shall make scholarship 
        payments under the program under this Act to the parent of the 
        eligible student participating in the program, in a manner 
        which ensures that such payments will be used for the payment 
        of tuition, fees, and transportation expenses (if any), in 
        accordance with this Act.
            (3) Amount of assistance.--
                    (A) Varying amounts permitted.--Subject to the 
                other requirements of this subsection, a grantee may 
                award scholarships in larger amounts to those eligible 
                students with the greatest need.
                    (B) Annual limit on amount.--The amount of 
                assistance provided to any eligible student by a 
                grantee under a program under this Act may not exceed 
                $7,500 for any academic year.
    (b) Administrative Expenses.--A grantee may use not more than 3 
percent of the amount provided under the grant each year for the 
administrative expenses of carrying out its program under this Act 
during the year, including--
            (1) determining the eligibility of students to participate;
            (2) providing information about the program and the schools 
        involved to parents of eligible students;
            (3) selecting students to receive support;
            (4) determining the amount of scholarships and issuing them 
        to eligible students;
            (5) compiling and maintaining financial and programmatic 
        records; and
            (6) providing funds to assist parents in meeting expenses 
        that might otherwise preclude the participation of their child 
        in the program.

SEC. 8. NONDISCRIMINATION.

    (a) In General.--A school participating in any program under this 
Act shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national 
origin, or sex in participating in the program.
    (b) Applicability and Construction With Respect to Discrimination 
on the Basis of Sex.--
            (1) Applicability.--Notwithstanding subsection (a) or any 
        other provision of law, it shall not be considered 
        discrimination on the basis of sex for a school that is 
        operated by, supervised by, controlled by, or connected to a 
        religious organization to take sex into account to the extent 
        that failing to do so would be inconsistent with the religious 
        tenets or beliefs of the school.
            (2) Single-sex schools, classes, or activities.--
        Notwithstanding subsection (a) or any other provision of law, a 
        parent may choose and a school may offer a single-sex school, 
        class, or activity.
    (c) Children With Disabilities.--Nothing in this Act may be 
construed to alter or modify the provisions of the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act.
    (d) Religiously Affiliated Schools.--
            (1) In general.--Notwithstanding any other provision of 
        law, a school participating in any program under this Act which 
        is operated by, supervised by, controlled by, or connected to, 
        a religious organization may employ persons of the same 
        religion to the extent determined by that school to promote the 
        religious purpose for which the school is established or 
        maintained.
            (2) Religious purposes.--Notwithstanding any other 
        provision of law, funds made available under this Act may be 
        used for religious educational purposes, and no participating 
        school shall be required to remove religious art, icons, 
        scriptures, or other symbols. A participating school may retain 
        religious terms in its name, select its board members on a 
        religious basis, and include religious references in its 
        mission statements and other chartering or governing documents.
    (e) Rule of Construction.--A scholarship (or any other form of 
support provided to parents of eligible students) under this Act shall 
be considered assistance to the student and shall not be considered 
assistance to the school that enrolls the eligible student. The amount 
of any scholarship (or other form of support provided to parents of an 
eligible student) under this Act shall not be treated as income of the 
parents for purposes of Federal tax laws or for determining eligibility 
for any other Federal program.

SEC. 9. EVALUATIONS.

    (a) In General.--
            (1) Duties of secretary.--The Secretary shall--
                    (A) conduct an evaluation using the strongest 
                possible research design for determining the 
                effectiveness of the programs funded under this Act 
                that addresses the issues described in paragraph (2); 
                and
                    (B) disseminate information on the impact of the 
                programs in increasing the student academic achievement 
                of participating students, as well as other appropriate 
                measures of student success, and on the impact of the 
                programs on students and schools in the District of 
                Columbia.
            (2) Issues to be evaluated.--The issues described in this 
        paragraph include the following:
                    (A) A comparison of the academic achievement of 
                students who participate in the programs funded under 
                this Act with the academic achievement of students of 
                similar backgrounds who do not participate in such 
                programs.
                    (B) The success of the programs in expanding choice 
                options for parents.
                    (C) The reasons parents choose for their children 
                to participate in the programs.
                    (D) A comparison of the retention rates, dropout 
                rates, and (if appropriate) graduation and college 
                admission rates of students who participate in the 
                programs funded under this Act with the retention 
                rates, dropout rates, and (if appropriate) graduation 
                and college admission rates of students of similar 
                backgrounds who do not participate in such programs.
                    (E) The effects of the programs on public 
                elementary and secondary schools.
                    (F) A comparison of the safety of the schools 
                attended by students who participate in the programs 
                and the schools attended by students who do not 
                participate in the programs.
                    (G) The impact of the program on students and 
                schools in the District of Columbia.
                    (H) Such other issues as the Secretary considers 
                appropriate for inclusion in the evaluation.
    (b) Reports.--The Secretary shall submit to the Committees on 
Appropriations, Education and the Workforce, and Government Reform of 

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