Federally funded school vouchers in the District of Columbia are set to become a reality soon. From the Washington Post:
GOP House and Senate negotiators have decided to put the vouchers provision — and the $5.6 billion 2004 District budget to which it is attached — into a larger federal budget bill that cannot be amended. That has set up a showdown in which the only way Democrats can block vouchers, or other controversial items in the broader spending bill, is to force a shutdown of many federal government operations.
Republican leaders expect a House-Senate conference committee to complete work on the omnibus spending bill as early as tomorrow, and hope to secure final floor passage before Congress adjourns Friday.Here are the high level details:
A $13 million voucher plan would provide at least 1,700 District schoolchildren from low-income families with grants of up to $7,500 a year to attend private or parochial schools during a five-year pilot program.
The District experiment would be the nation’s first federally funded voucher program, and congressional passage would give President Bush a victory on an issue that has been pushed by conservative education activists since Republicans took control of Congress in 1995.
Supporters of vouchers have said that poor, black families in the District deserve the same access to private schools as that available to affluent parents whose children have left the troubled D.C. public school system.
Opponents have said that vouchers are unproved and provide taxpayer subsidies to unregulated religious and private groups. They contend that the money should be spent instead on reforming the public education system.Read those last two sentences to see the philosophical divide; one group knows what’s better for your children than you do – opponents of school choice. What scares them most is that parents will be given the tools to hold schools directly accountable. The $13 million (or whatever the final amount is) for the program is NOT being taken from education spending, these are new funds specifically for this program. The voucher program has been endorsed by Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams (Democrat) and a majority of the city council. The opponents? The NEA and their lapdog politicians.
Could this be the beginning of a radical shift in education?