Doing right by DC’s students

Posted by: Phineas on January 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Last summer I castigated President Obama, his Secretary of Education, and the Democrats for killing a school voucher program in the District of Columbia that provided good educations to children who would otherwise be stuck in rotten schools. The benefits to these children weren’t just airy conservative theory: test scores were bearing them out in practice.

But, the president owed the teacher’s unions big-time for the work (and money) they poured into his election, and, of course, anything not smelling of statism goes against his nature anyway. Hence the voucher program was allowed to expire. (While his own children were placed in the toniest private school in Washington.)

But, not all public servants are willing to sacrifice a child’s education on the altars of ideology and union greed. Thus it is that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Lieberman (I-CT) are going to introduce legislation reviving the voucher program:

The speaker, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on Wednesday plans to introduce legislation to revive a controversial program that provides private-school vouchers for kids of low-income parents in Washington, D.C. Boehner has long been a supporter of that program, which started to wind down in 2009, but is devoting some serious political capital to the cause this week.


The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, as it is known, was launched in 2004 as the first federally funded program providing K-12 education grants. Though supporters say it gives poor students an alternative to the city’s underperforming public school system, teachers unions and other opponents say it draws sorely needed money away from the public system.

Lawmakers opposed to the program succeeded in eliminating it after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — who could not be reached for comment Tuesday — attached an amendment to a 2009 spending bill. President Obama stepped in and agreed to allow students currently enrolled to graduate. But the program is no longer accepting new applicants.

Click through to see video of Boehner and Lieberman’s announcement.

I think it’s a safe bet to say this will pass. The question is whether the President will sign it and do the right thing by the District’s children, or veto it to please his union backers. If he does veto it, not only will it be another sign that his “move to the center” is a bad joke, but it will let me ask again the question I offered last time: Why does President Obama hate poor kids?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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12 Responses to “Doing right by DC’s students”


  1. Dana says:

    With any luck — and some cojones on the part of Republicans — the eleventy-second Congress is going to be killing a lot of programs, because we do not have the money to pay for them. The DC vouchers program is a nice one, but so are a lot of the programs that we all hope the Congress kills this session.

    Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has proposed completely eliminating three entire federal departments (Housing and Urban Development, Education and Energy), and cutting $500 billion from the federal budget; that is the right way to go. Yeah, I’d like to see the voucher program, too, but it is a luxury, not a necessity.

  2. DF says:

    Ending school vouchers was a good example of the left wanting everyone to be equally miserable. Dc schools are filled with bad teachers, violence, and crime yet we will make everyone suffer by crushing the hopes of families who wish to send their kids elsewhere. Good for the republicans to start the vouchers again.


  3. Phineas says:


    Why do you hate the poor kids of DC? (Kidding! ;) )

    The total cost of the program is a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on other discretionary programs and, especially, the Social Security and Medicare entitlements. It may be low-hanging fruit, but funding or not funding it won’t make a whit of difference to the fiscal problems we face. Yet it can make a great difference to children in one of the nation’s worst school systems. This is one case where Congress has direct constitutional authority for that kind of spending. (Art. I, sec.8), and I think it’s money well spent.

    As to Paul’s proposal, it’ll never get through this Congress, but I like it for putting the issue in stark terms. To his list I’d add Labor, Commerce, the FCC, and the EPA. Of course, there may be key functions in each that should be maintained in a sub-Cabinet office (Such as the census, currently under Commerce), but that a matter to debate as each department is considered.

    Like I said, I don’t expect it to happen during this Congress.

  4. Carlos says:

    I wouldn’t expect it to happen in any congress, Phineas. There’s not ten of our elected officials who have the cajones, let alone the power, to eliminate all those federal jobs, and if the argument is a constitutional one, not two federal judges in the entire country who would side with the Constitution.

    As far as the voucher program for D.C. goes, why not include the LAUD and Detroit? Lord knows, those two systems are as bad as D.C., and could use the help, too.

  5. Phineas says:

    As far as the voucher program for D.C. goes, why not include the LAUD and Detroit? Lord knows, those two systems are as bad as D.C., and could use the help, too.

    Because Article I, Section 8, gives Congress all legislative authority over DC, but no other locality.

  6. SKAY says:

    Obama doesn’t care about the kids–he cares about votes.

  7. This is one thing that I am willing to give the President a modicum of credit for. Had it been up to the last congress the program would have ended this school year for everyone. Obama worked it out that the kids already in the program are allowed to finish school until graduation.

    I do believe he will sign it if they can get it passed in the senate. This may not be popular, but I truly believe that Obama knows that vouchers are part of the solution to the problems with our education system. I am not saying that he will stand up to the unions, but in his heart of hearts he knows it.

    And Dana, the voucher program saves money as the federal government basically pays for the DC school system. The cost per student is almost $30K and the vouchers are $7500 per student. It has been widely sucessful, has saved money, and has given some needy kids a chance at an education they never otherwise would have gotten. It also will go a long way getting more people off of public assistance, which the majority of the kids come from families who are collecting some form or another. It is money that is very well spent.

    I live outside of DC and this is a program that I am very passionate about, if you can’t tell.

  8. Paul says:

    Political animals consider themselves first ! :d

  9. Carlos says:

    Since when does that concern our Glorious Leader, Phineas? Or, for that matter, Congress? Or even the courts? That’s three branches of government that MAY occasionally give a nod in deference to the Constitution, but rarely take it as a serious instrument of keeping power out of the hands of autocrats, thieves and ne’er-do-wells.

    And SKAY is correct: Duh-1 cares less for the kids than he does for Republicans because he, and only he, is qualified to run peoples’ lives simply because he is the most equal among equals.

  10. MissJean says:

    In Detroit, if a school is failing, students can be bused to another school. There are also “schools of choice” which allow students who live outside their districts to attend. The problem comes when you have students who are spending a couple hours on a bus.

    And to be fair, Detroit teachers and administrators have tried some improvements that weren’t allowed. For example, they created separate academies for boys and girls, basing this on research and their own experience that at-risk, young black males benefited. But the usual lawyers took it to court as sexist segregation. There was also an attempt in the ’90s for Detroit students to have vouchers to excellent private schools, like those run by the Archdiocese of Detroit. (In fact, there was a reading program that were funded by the Detroit Public schools but run by a nun at St. Martin de Porres HS, but somehow that was acceptably-funded.) But that violated the separation of church and state.

  11. MissJean says:

    And if liberals really want to help students, maybe they can consider that they’ve undermined families and made single motherhood the norm. It’s damn hard to teach children whose culture is digging their own graves.