Update: Playing hardball on D.C. vouchers 


Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has challenged President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to education reform by announcing his support of the popular  D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Issa put the Obama administration on notice that congressional Republicans will not cooperate with the president’s plan to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, George W. Bush’s landmark legislation, if the he refuses to sign the D.C. voucher bill.

“The American people need to know if President Obama is prepared to stand against union pressure when they oppose innovative education programs and reforms that help our students,” Rep. Issa said. “President Obama has the opportunity to do this by announcing his support for the bipartisan effort to restore a successful program that benefits students from families of modest means in our nation’s capital.”

House Speaker John Boehner resuscitated the voucher program after it was defunded by Congress in 2009, when Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., inserted language allowing it to expire into an omnibus spending bill in response to requests by the city’s teachers union.

Unlike the original legislation, the $60 million bill in the current bill, which passed Issa’s committee last week, includes not only $20 million for the $7,500 vouchers – which can be used at any private or parochial school in D.C. – but also $20 million for the District’s traditional public school system and an additional $20 million for its burgeoning charter schools, says Don Soifer of the Lexington Institute, eliminating any argument that vouchers siphon  money away from public schools.

Soifer predicted the voucher bill will pass the full House and that companion legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., also has a good chance of passing in the Senate. As a further warning to Democrats, both Senators Lieberman and Susan Collins, R-Maine, say they will not vote for any bill that strips out voucher funding.

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