The Republicans in Congress have struck a deal (with each other – I guess they don’t talk to Democrats anymore) on the school voucher plan for the District of Columbia, which means that this experiment will probably be done. As I ranted about earlier, they plan to bury the money for this plan in the main funding bill for the federal government, which by the rules cannot be amended.
I still have my suspicions about this plan but there were a couple of changes in the final version that are positives. One is that they dropped a requirement that teachers at the private schools accepting vouchers must have college degrees. If this is going to be a valid test of whether voucher students achieve more at the private schools they choose, then those schools should not be forced to change.
The other part of the bill that offers a little hope that this could be a valid test is requirment that the "academic performance of students receiving vouchers be tested using the same measurements as are used for their peers in D.C. public schools". That is the only fair way to determine if spending all this money actually makes a difference.
Of course, there are two other parts to this mess that are still wrong. First and foremost, Congress is still meddling in local District affairs and denying the people living in the city any real measure of the "home rule" supposedly granted in the 70’s. Secondly, the program is underfunded, offering vouchers to only 1700 students, in amounts that won’t cover the tuition at many of the District’s private schools. But for the District of Columbia’s alternative City Council/School Board (aka Congress), that’s just business as usual.