Choices

CHOICES…. In just the last 15 days, the Washington Post editorial board has run three separate editorials on D.C.’s private school voucher system, each urging Congress to keep the program going indefinitely. The Post, which has been pro-voucher for years, hasn’t run three editorials in 15 days on any other subject recently, underscoring how seriously the paper’s editorial board takes the issue.

The problem, of course, is that the pieces aren’t persuasive, and haven’t changed any minds on the Hill. Today’s piece repeats one of the right’s favorite canards.

A new survey shows that 38 percent of members of Congress have sent their children to private school. About 20 percent themselves attended private school, nearly twice the rate of the general public. Nothing wrong with those numbers; no one should be faulted for personal decisions made in the best interests of loved ones. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if Congress extended similar consideration to low-income D.C. parents desperate to keep their sons and daughters in good schools? […]

The gap between what Congress practices and what it preaches was best illustrated by the Heritage Foundation’s analysis of a recent vote to preserve the program. The measure was defeated by the Senate 58 to 39; it would have passed if senators who exercised school choice for their own children had voted in favor. Alas, the survey doesn’t name names, save for singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), architect of the language that threatens the program, for sending his children to private school and attending private school himself.

Republican lawmakers, who tend to love vouchers because they hate teachers unions and prefer the idea of privatizing education, made the exact same argument during a debate a couple of weeks ago. It was unpersuasive then, too.

Try an experiment: look at the Post‘s editorial, and replace “schools” with “homes.” Members of Congress choose to buy or rent nice homes for themselves and their families. Nothing wrong with that. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if lawmakers also used tax dollars to let low-income D.C. parents also buy nice homes, too?

Or replace “schools” with “cars.” Members of Congress drive nice cars. Wouldn’t it also be nice if lawmakers also used tax dollars to let low-income D.C. parents buy nice cars, too?

Or replace “schools” with “healthcare.” Or “healthy food.” Or “political influence.” Are members of Congress hypocrites unless they use the federal treasury to empower all D.C. families to have the identical life options they currently enjoy?

Some members of Congress, including Dick Durbin, singled out by the Post and the Heritage Foundation, support the public school system while choosing to also pay private school tuition for religious reasons. Durbin’s not asking for taxpayers to subsidize his family’s decision. The Post editorial board insists we should.

Repetition doesn’t make the pitch any more convincing.

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