As Carrie said last week, the Democratic takeover of Congress does not bode well for the D.C. School Choice Initiative which is up for renewal in 2007. Yesterday, Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation had a great article on Human Events Online on the subject.
Here is some background on the D.C. program:
“In 2004, President Bush signed legislation to create the D.C. opportunity scholarship program, which offered tuition scholarships worth up to $7,500 for students from families with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line for a family of four. Students receiving scholarships can attend any of 66 participating private schools.
“Now in its third year, the program aids 1,800 students from families with an average income of $21,100, or 106 percent of the poverty line. These students’ families are some of the most disadvantaged in the community.
“The scholarships have proven popular among parents. According to the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit that administers the program, nearly 6,500 students have applied for scholarships over the past three years, or about three applicants for each scholarship slot. In all, about 11 percent of eligible low-income students have applied.”
So, in a nutshell: it’s a popular program that is helping almost two thousand disadvantaged children. But it passed a Republican Congress by narrow support (205 to 203) with all but four Democrats voting against the bill. It could prove hard to reauthorize such a program in a Nancy Pelosi House, but there is still some hope:
“Historically, liberals have opposed private school choice programs. In 1998, President Clinton vetoed legislation to create a D.C. school choice program. In all, 188 House Democrats voted against the D.C. voucher plan. Both soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) have consistent records of opposing vouchers.
“But in recent years, a growing number of Democrats have supported private school choice. The D.C. voucher program itself passed thanks to support from a few prominent Democrats like Senators Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Harold Ford (D.-Tenn.). Their support helped fuel bipartisan support for school choice proposals nationwide.
“In 2006, a record number of Democratic lawmakers in state capitals sponsored or supported private school choice plans. And Democratic governors in Arizona, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have agreed to create or expand school choice options.”
If nothing else, the reauthorization will force members of Congress to take a position on school choice. As Dan points out, “Their answer will have a big impact on the lives of these students and millions of their peers across the nation.”