By now we know that John Boehner has a sentimental side, but so far only Washington insiders know of his soft heart for low-income kids stuck in under-performing schools. Besides his support for school voucher programs, he has co-sponsored fundraisers for D.C. parochial schools for almost as long as he's been in Washington. As Carrie Lukas reports on National Review Online, "He's known for his tendency to choke up when talking about the need to give poor children a chance at better schools, and presides at these charity events with a box of tissues close at hand."
As the presumptive speaker of the House, he's expected to challenge the Democrats' cancellation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher plan that he helped create in 2004 and that President Obama refused to rescue from the chopping block last year. If he puts the program back on the table, it will be a high-profile challenge to Democrats to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to helping poor children. Are they moved more by heartstrings or by purse strings, especially when the purse is firmly clasped by the teachers' unions?
More bad news for the education establishment: In last week's election they lost some reliable supporters like Dana Titus (Nevada) and Tom Perriello (Virginia) and failed to spend solid supporters like Joe Sestak (Pennsylvania) into office. On the state level, union-friendly legislatures in Indiana and Michigan went Republican, and union-friendly governors like Charlie Crist and Ed Rendell were replaced. If their replacements are interested in standing up to the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, Gov. Christie of New Jersey might be willing to share some tips.
In states where school superintendents are elected-Georgia, Oklahoma, Idaho, Arizona, South Carolina, Wyoming, and California-Republicans won six offices out of seven (one guess as to the one state they didn't win). What does all this mean? Probably not as much as we'd like, but there are signs, from New York charter schools to western statehouses, that the union grip over public education is beginning to slacken. Not a moment too soon, and we can hope not too late.