As Matt wrote on Friday, a majority of the DC City Council Members wrote a letter to Arne Duncan expressing their strong support of the DC voucher program, including expansion of the program beyond those currently using scholarships. The WSJ has yet another great editorial on the topic. It says, in part:
Earlier this year Illinois Senator Dick Durbin added language to a spending bill that phases out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program after next year. The program provides 1,700 kids $7,500 per year to use toward tuition at a private school of their parents’ choosing. Mr. Durbin’s amendment says no federal money can be spent on the program beyond 2010 unless Congress reauthorizes it and the D.C. Council approves.
The D.C. Council’s letter shows that support for these vouchers is real at the local level and that the opposition exists mainly at the level of the national Democratic Party. Mr. Durbin has suggested that he included the D.C. Council provision in deference to local control. “The government of Washington, D.C., should decide whether they want it in their school district,” he said in March. Well now we know where D.C. stands. We will now see if the national party stands for putting union power and money above the future of poor children.
Will others who’ve offered DC local control as a reason for opposing the voucher program now come out in support of it? (I’m looking at you, Kevin Carey.)
Unfortunately, even as vouchers benefited from the support of the DC City Council, Senator Durbin was busy introducing new, onerous regulations on the program in an appropriations bill last week. In particular, his measures would require participating private schools to take the DC public school test rather than a nationally-normed standardized test, even though they may not have the same curriculum as DCPS. His measures would also require the Secretary of Education to prohibit voucher students from attending any private school that was not deemed “superior” to DC public schools. The language is unclear as to whether that means the average DC public schools, the best, the worst, or what.
You know, this may not be such a bad idea. Maybe no DC public school students should be forced to attend a public school that is worse than average. How about if we offer them vouchers?
Wait, I’m sure that was not the intent of the new Durbin measures. The clear purpose is to strangle the program with reasonable-sounding but truly crippling regulation while the entire program is eventually eliminated.
Senator Feinstein attempted to remove the Durbin measures in the full committee and Senators Landreau and Byrd joined her in that effort. But they failed on a tie vote. It was particularly disappointing to see Senator Mark Pryor vote with Durbin. Pryor has to be careful not to move further left than his Arkansas constituents as he follows the national leadership or he could finally face a serious challenger for re-election.