Tucked on page 4 of the Metro section of the Washington Post is a story explaining:
Congress appears likely to keep the D.C. voucher program closed to new students but open to current ones, curtailing the hopes of advocates who had pressed for a full revival of the controversial program. The news is buried deep within a thousand-page omnibus spending bill released Monday by a joint conference of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members.
It was buried in the Post. This seems like rather big news, however. The president who strode into office promising “real” education reform and a willingness to slay vested special interests has, along with the Democrat-controlled Congress, been rolled by the teachers’ union. It seems that the Democrats are prepared to let this very successful and popular program that benefited inner-city kids simply die on the vine:
There is still a chance the program could be reopened to new students, but that appears unlikely given the language in the appropriations bill and general Democratic opposition to vouchers. More than 1,700 students participated in the program in the 2008-09 school year. That number dropped to 1,319 this year because applications were closed to new students in the spring, and some students have graduated or left the program. President Obama has expressed support for keeping the program open only to current students.
This is bad policy and bad politics. At a time when the president and Congressional Democrats are plummeting in the polls and bereft of bipartisan proposals, preserving and even extending school vouchers seems like a no-brainer. Help poor kids? Work across the aisle? Sounds entirely reasonable. But Big Labor is not to be trifled with.