Choice revokers

"Choice revokers" Continued...

Issue: "Ready or not, here we go," March 28, 2009

Even if the spring report shows the program to be wildly successful, with the Democrats in control, Republicans don't expect vouchers to pass through in congressional legislation anytime soon. "Politically, it's a dead issue," said McKeon. "I'm a realist."

Meanwhile, Bennett's 18-year-old daughter, Laurencia, is about to graduate from Georgetown Visitation, a local private school. She was an honor student in D.C. public schools, but when she moved to the private school four years ago, she dropped to a C average. "D.C. public schools aren't teaching them what they should," said her mom. After two years there, Laurencia worked her way onto the dean's list and has applied to nine colleges.

Democratic dissenters

By Emily Belz

Getty Images

It was an unusual sight when D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat, came to lobby Congress to continue funding the city's school voucher program last year. Before becoming mayor, Fenty was an outspoken opponent of vouchers, and his view was in lockstep with most of the other Democratic politicians in the District.

While opposition to school vouchers is part of the party's platform, a minority of Democrats around the country have begun supporting those programs on state and local levels.

Louisiana's Democratic legislature passed a voucher program for New Orleans last year, authored by Democrats. The program, similar to the Washington program, provides $6,300 scholarships for 1,500 children of low-income families.

In Florida's legislature, Democrats originally opposed a $30 million tax-credit scholarship program, but last year one-third of Democratic lawmakers voted for its extension.

Over the last couple of years, several Democratic governors have supported voucher or tax-credit programs for students: Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

In the U.S. Senate, vouchers have an advocate in Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut who votes with Democrats. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also sponsored the D.C. voucher bill.

"I have met with some of these children and know that they want to continue this program and benefit from educational opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them," Lieberman wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking them to continue the D.C. voucher program. "The education of these low-income children should not be held hostage to congressional inaction and partisan politics."

President Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, opposes school vouchers on principle, but he surprised many by announcing recently that he believes the D.C. program should continue. The Associated Press paraphrased him saying "it's a mistake to take kids out of school where they are happy, safe and satisfied."

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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