Wednesday, September 10, 2003

D.C. Voucher Bill Passes in House by 1 Vote

Thank God! But why by so narrow a margin? Because 15 treacherous Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against the measure, while only 3 Democrats had the decency to do the right thing by D.C.'s poor.

"This sends a very powerful message to the Senate," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who joined a majority of the D.C. Council and school board in opposing vouchers despite the support the measure received from D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz.

Supporters "have completely miscalculated the sentiment in this House and in the Senate for public education and against draining any money away from it," Norton said, adding that the private-school vouchers are "hard to explain in members' districts back home" when federal public education reforms are underfunded by $9 billion and local budgets are strained.


In the Senate, Democrats debated their strategy on the voucher issue, which now appears unlikely to reach the Senate floor before next week at the earliest.

Norton said that instead of waging a filibuster, Senate Democrats would hold an open debate on the merits of the voucher concept.

But a Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the strategy remained undecided. While Democrats want to make clear that they seek an open debate, the aide said, "all tools remain available to Democrats to defeat this legislation."

It's good to see that the Democrats are now willing to be at least partially truthful about their real motivations - defending the budgets of NEA bureaucrats at all costs - but why maintain the fiction that this has anything to do with "underfunding?" For goodness' sake, this bill was crafted with an extra $10 million earmarked, precisely to prevent ludicrous claims of public schools being "drained"; what is more, the funding required will be from the federal government, so "local budgets" have absolutely zip to do with the bill at issue here. That the Democratic Party's representatives are willing to tell such blatant lies says a great deal about their desperation.

I await the Senate vote with interest, and I'm particularly interested in finding out if the Democrats are willing to go through with their threat of a filibuster. If they do dare carry one out, there will certainly be hell to pay. Most of the Democratic Party leadership appears to believe that black support is theirs by right, a sort of heirloom to be passed down through the generations, rather than something to be actively courted by bold deeds instead of mere words, but pointless gesture politics will no longer suffice to get out the black vote. Even if the GOP doesn't come calling, there's always the option of staying home on election day.