The budget deal brokered at the very last minute on Friday includes a measure that reinstates a school-voucher program in the District of Columbia, while banning the city from using its own funds to provide abortions for low-income women.
D.C Leaders Are Angry
From WAMU 88.5 FM:
For all of the stinging barbs D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton fired off in her statement following the budget deal, she saved some of her toughest words for Senate Democrats and the White House, saying they had thrown D.C. under the bus.
Other city leaders — all of them Democrats — followed suit, saying D.C. had once again been used by both parties as a bargaining chip.
“We clearly don’t have any friends on Capitol Hill, says Chuck Thies, a local political consultant. “The riders were sponsored by Republicans. They were placed in the budget by Republicans. But Democrats capitulated so there is no one on Capitol Hill who is our friend.”
The voucher provision in the budget deal would give the district federal financing for school vouchers, a pet program of Speaker John A. Boehner, but officials say the program is unnecessary as 40 percent of students already go to public charter schools.
Even aside from accusations of inappropriate meddling accusations in D.C. affairs, and the fact that 40% of public school students in D.C. now attend charter schools, there is virtually no evidence that vouchers have improved the learning that is going on in Washington’s schools.
Only Program To Give Federal Tax Dollars To Private Schools
This is the only program that uses federal tax dollars to subsidize private-school tuition. It was established in 2004, to give 1,700 students in Washington a voucher of up to $7,500 to attend private and religious schools in the city as alternatives to the frequently underperforming neighborhood schools.
The program was controversial from the start — it was the first federal funding for vouchers in three decades. But in 2009, under intense pressure from the teachers unions, Congress and the Administration began to dismantle the program and no new students are participating today.
Inappropriate Use Of Federal Funds
The re-establishment of this program is an inappropriate use of federal funds, providing funds to approximately 3% of the kids in D.C., money that would be better spent on improving the system for all children.
No Abortions For Low-Income Women
In a blatantly partisan move, House Speaker John Boehner secured funding for his pet project, D.C. vouchers, while killing all funding for abortions in the city.
The abortion provision bars D.C. from using local taxpayer funds to cover abortions for low-income women on Medicaid. A similar ban was lifted in 2009.
From The New York Times:
The use of federal money for abortions has been banned since 1976. The ban in Washington, sometimes referred to as the Dornan Amendment, goes even further, prohibiting the district from using its own money to pay for abortions for poor women.
About 150,000 of the city’s poorest residents are on Medicaid, and just over half are women. They are overwhelmingly black and Latina. In the years that local money was banned, those women had to pay for abortions themselves, city officials said.
This is a lose-lose-lose situation: for the children of D.C, the women of D.C. and the entire population, who once again have become pawns in a political game of chess. Shame on you, Mr. Boehner.
Photo credit: dbking via Creative Commons