December 2010 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Voucher proponents have been on the march since last month’s elections, lobbying Congress and presumptive House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to revive a controversial scheme that subsidizes religious and other private schools in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, a federally funded project that paid up to $7,500 per student for tuition at religious and other private schools, was meant to be a five-year experiment. When it expired in 2008, Congress limited participation to students already receiving vouchers. No new students were permitted to enter the program, a compromise supported by President Barack Obama.

Boehner has been a long-time supporter of voucher programs. After Obama’s election, Boehner helped lead the Republican effort in Congress to keep the D.C. program. Since the 1990s, Boehner has pushed for policies to expand vouchers. As chairman of the House Education Committee in 2004, he backed the D.C. voucher pilot, and he also pressed for school vouchers in the emergency federal aid package after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

D.C. Parents for School Choice is pressuring Boehner and new members of Congress to revive the program. The group issued a statement Nov. 3 stating that the mid-term election results will increase the chances of continuing the plan.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found no significant improvement in the reading and math scores of targeted students participating in the D.C. voucher program. Americans United has opposed the scheme, saying taxpayer funds should not pay for religious education.