School Choice a Casualty of the Omnibus Budget
Education Week reports some disappointing news on the school choice front:
Although education spending as a whole got a $1.2 billion boost in a federal budget deal announced Wednesday, one small but high-profile program has been left out: Washington D.C.’s school vouchers.
The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), which creates a limited number of vouchers for students living in the District of Columbia, was not reauthorized in the omnibus spending bill, which is expected to be passed this week.
Recently departed House Speaker John Boehner was a champion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and the House signed off on reauthorizing SOAR earlier this fall even though it wasn’t up for renewal this year.
The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
The omnibus funds the program for fiscal year 2016 but fails to reauthorize it. This means that 20 years after the program was first debated, 10 years after it started, four years after Mr. Boehner revived it after President Obama had killed it, and a few months after the House passed a bill to reauthorize it, we’ll have to fight the battle all over again . . .
Perhaps this reflects the imbalance of passion. Democrats try to kill vouchers every year because unions demand it. Never mind that Opportunity Scholarship recipients have higher graduation rates and more parental satisfaction than D.C. public school students. Or that the children who get these scholarships are from households with an average household income below $21,000 a year.
This part of the editorial rankles: “A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Hal Rogers, which helped negotiate the omnibus, says only that ‘as this was a compromise agreement, not all priorities could be retained.’”
Four years ago, Republicans — and a significant number of Democrats — understood that protecting and extending the scholarship program was a fight worth having. And that was when Republicans didn’t control both houses of Congress.