Regarding William McGurn's Main Street column "Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids?" (March 3): The Opportunity Scholarship program was created in 2003, as a five-year pilot project designed to give District of Columbia students federally paid vouchers to attend private schools. More than 1,700 students are enrolled in a wide range of private institutions, some world class and others with substantial problems.Voices of School Choice
Reviews of the program by the Department of Education and Government Accountability Office have found "schools" (sometimes consisting of a single room in a church basement) with significant health and safety issues; teachers lacking basic college degrees or teaching credentials; and no demonstrable evidence that students are performing better than their public school counterparts.
I chair the subcommittee which oversees funding for the District of Columbia and have reviewed and funded this program since its creation. But the five-year pilot program expires at the end of this school year and in order for the program to continue, Congress must pass a bill reauthorizing it. That's not a "sneaky maneuver" on my part; that's the language of the law establishing the D.C. voucher program.
However, 1,700 school children shouldn't be forced out of schools because Congress fails to act. That's why I've funded the program for an additional year, allowing it to continue through the end of the 2009-2010 school year. This gives Congress an extra year to act. Sen. Joe Lieberman has promised a timely hearing on the program and an honest evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses.
If the program is reauthorized, and the district approves it, I will continue to see that it's funded.
Dick Durbin (D., Ill.)
Assistant Senate Majority Leader
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee
A Vote for Ignorance Chicago Tribune
Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids? Wall Street Journal
Voucher Subterfuge Washington Post
School Choice Has Media Mainstreamed CATO
President Bartlett signs on for vouchers
Senate votes down funding for DC vouchers