Who's really killing D.C.'s voucher program
Once again, Congress is taking a hit from some D.C. interests for calling it quits on the Washington Opportunity Scholarship -- the District's federally funded school voucher program. And, once again, the critics are aiming their barbs in the wrong direction. Their argument is with residents of the District of Columbia.
If the voucher program, which provides $7,500 annually to low-income D.C. students to attend private schools is so laudatory, D.C. residents, not American taxpayers from coast to coast, should be the ones who bear the costs. After all, D.C. children are the program's chief beneficiaries. City residents, however, are sitting on their hands as the program dies a slow but certain death.
It should come as no surprise that Democratic congressional leaders are effectively killing the program. They, and their union allies, didn't like it in the first place. The D.C. school voucher program was an initiative launched by a Republican Congress and supported by a GOP president. Only the most obtuse observer could have believed that last November's elections did not spell a change in plans.
Voucher proponents had an opportunity to demonstrate the program's worth, and they tried to make the most of it. To their credit, they convinced the mayor, the school chancellor and the majority of the D.C. Council to support the program's continuance. The only problem was the they wanted the program continued with federal funding. Congress is right to wonder: If the city likes vouchers so much, why shouldn't the District bear the cost?
The answer is as clear as it may be embarrassing to voucher proponents: D.C. lawmakers don't want to ask their constituents to shoulder the program's expense. Not that they couldn't find a way to finance the program. Anyone who has watched city leaders come up with creative ways to spend money on a new stadium, downtown buildings and lucrative contracts and earmarks knows that the city can find a way to spend if the will is there.
Vouchers, unquestionably, have their advocates. There simply aren't enough of them around. A D.C. taxpayer-funded program for private voucher students cannot pass in our nation's capital.
The mayor and council know it. Congress and the president know it, too. The fault, if there is one, lies with us.
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