Retiring Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be introducing a bill to bring private school vouchers back to the District. The program first started under Mayor Williams in 2004, under the orders of the then-Republican-leaning 108th Congress. Shortly after the 2008 elections, when the Democrats retook not just the Senate and House, but the White House as well, the Congress put a stop to the program that for four years sent students from DCPS to private schools.
While the effects of a voucher program on a public schools system is certainly not favorable, there’s not much room for argument about improving student performance: it worked.
In 2009, seven councilmembers wrote to Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ask him not to rescind the funding for those students. Council Chair Kwame Brown, along with councilmembers from Ward 4, 5, 7 and 8, and two at-large councilmembers (Catania and Michael A. Brown) all signed that letter, possibly putting them at odds with new Mayor Vincent Gray, who said to Mike Debonis of the Post late last night that “These are decisions that should be made by the residents of the District of Columbia.”
The Mayor has a fine point, and it would be nice to see the District not used as a pawn in a political game, but could this be the first wedge issue that divides the Council and the Mayor? As much of this will be out of the control of the DC legislative body, it’s entirely possible we could see a good amount of frustrated rhetoric and vitriol spill over from the largely pro-home rule Mayor’s office, and the more pragmatic council.