The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to effectively begin the end of the federally funded D.C. school voucher program. Ed Secretary Duncan has publicly disagreed with the timetable for withdrawal but that apparently had little effect as the vote wasn’t even close (58-39), although there were a few interesting votes here and there. It’s part of a pattern, the Hill doesn’t really seem to much care what the administration thinks about the omnibus spending bill and the administration is basically saying that it’ll be their process next year so just wait. So far the Hill seems to have the stronger hand. In terms of the voucher program specifically, in better economic times you’d expect some private money to come in and at least allow students to stay at their current schools until they age out, if not continue the program because it’s a touchstone in the school voucher community. But these are not normal times. Whatever one thinks of school vouchers, the spectacle of forcing the kids to leave their schools before they age out is pretty cold-hearted. But when elephants fight…as they say…Going forward there will be some theater before this is all over and perhaps some compromise on currently enrolled students in a future bill (though the specific language in the legislation makes that challenging) so how this played out was a pretty clear signal.
The voucher funding was part of a “three sector” solution involving funds for the city’s public schools, public charter schools, and the voucher program. Keep an eye on that.