From POLITICO comes the news that school vouchers (aka opportunity scholarships) will re-emerge as a key political and social issue in the aftermath of the State of the Union Speech tonight. Vouchers allow students who qualify to leave failing public schools and attend parochial or private schools. They take with them most of the tax money set aside for their education and that money pays their tuition in the private or parochial school. In the District of Columbia a limited voucher program had helped a number of Catholic Schools in the city to survive. Their survival has been gravely threatened when the Democratic Congress refused to renew the program in 2008. The Obama Administration completely defunded the program in the 2010 budget. With yet another sea change in congressional power back to Republican control, it looks like vouchers stand a good chance of renewal in the District and perhaps elsewhere. Here are excerpts from the Politico article:
The day after President Barack Obama makes education a centerpiece of his State of the Union address, House Speaker John Boehner will try to force his hand on the issue of school vouchers in Washington, D.C. as a test of the White House’s commitment to bipartisanship.
The Ohio Republican, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), will introduce legislation on Wednesday to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, the speaker’s office said Monday, making a school voucher initiative that Democrats, including Obama, have strongly opposed as a bargaining chip for beginning discussions on the administration’s desired education proposals.
“If the president is sincere about working together on education reform, we should start by saving this successful, bipartisan program that has helped so many underprivileged children get a quality education,” Boehner said in a statement to POLITICO…..
Teachers unions have fought against the voucher program and Obama’s budget pulled funding for new scholarships after 2010…..
Obama is unlikely to showcase the program in his State of the Union address Tuesday night when he calls for reform and additional spending on education initiatives. But Boehner is planning to make it difficult for the president to ignore the issue.
The speaker’s guests in the House gallery will include a student, parent and teacher from each of the four D.C. Catholic schools that participate in the program. About 50 D.C. schools participate in the program overall.
The GOP’s outline of its top priorities, the “Pledge to America,” does not mention education. The D.C. vouchers funding could be the only bill Boehner authors all year, his office said to stress how important he views the program, and he is not co-sponsoring any legislation this Congress
Read the complete article here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/48087.html
This is hopeful news for poor children in DC and is also a potential lifeline for Catholic Schools in the city many of which are struggling financially. Stay tuned and pray!