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House Democrats Seek to End DC Voucher Program

Lisa Snell
March 3, 2009, 9:11am

Last week the House Democrats passed a spending bill that would end the DC Scholarship program after the 2009-2010 school year. The Washington Post examines the Democrats real motives in defunding a tiny program that provides higher quality education choice for students in low-performing public schools during a time when spending billions is almost passe:

But the debate unfolding on Capitol Hill isn't about facts. It's about politics and the stranglehold the teachers unions have on the Democratic Party. Why else has so much time and effort gone into trying to kill off what, in the grand scheme of government spending, is a tiny program? Why wouldn't Congress want to get the results of a carefully calibrated scientific study before pulling the plug on a program that has proved to be enormously popular? Could the real fear be that school vouchers might actually be shown to be effective in leveling the academic playing field?

The bottom line is that this is a purely political. There is no solid academic or economic reason to kill the tiny school voucher program. The Democrats could easily leave those families alone. The only thing they have to lose is that the voucher program might actually provide the kids with a better education. The irony continues to be that none of those House Democrats or Obama would sacrifice their child's education to the future of the DC public school system.

As Alexander Russo reports at This Week in Education, DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who oversees schools that are directley competing with the school voucher program, was the one Democrat still willing to stand up for parental choice.

“I don’t think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids.”

I wrote about the olden days when some Democrats were for Education Reform here.

Finally, I have to agree with Jay P. Greene today:

Vouchers have made the world safe for charters. And the moment that vouchers really do stall, the enemies of school choice will redirect their fire at charters, strangling them with regulation and repealing charter gains. To say that vouchers haven’t really done much of anything politically because charters are really where the action is to ignore how much charters owe their political strength to the credible threat of new and expanded voucher programs.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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