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School Vouchers Fight Crosses Party Lines

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has fought against continuing the school vouchers program, arguing that it wastes precious dollars on a small population of the D.C. education system that could be poured into public and charter schools in need of additional resources.

“We’re basically saying ... ‘We want you to have enough money, keep going, expand the program, but since you’re sitting on $34 million, we’re not going to send you additional money until you’ve expended it,’” Durbin said. “We’re not trying to pull any tricks here. A good conservative like you out to be saying, ‘Why would we be sending them more money when they haven’t spent what we already sent them?’”

Johnson’s amendment would have inserted language into the committee report clarifying that public schools, charter schools and the voucher program should all receive equal funding levels. It was defeated, 13-17.

The House Appropriations Committee is set to consider its fiscal 2013 spending bill as early as next week, and it would likely include the full $20 million for the program in deference to Boehner.

Though Norton has been a staunch opponent, fighting vigorously against her chamber’s efforts to reinstate the program through stand-alone legislation last year by saying that D.C. residents were not Congress’ “lab rats,” she has not yet commented on efforts to bulk up funding for the program.

In a statement released this afternoon after the markup’s conclusion, Norton thanked Senate appropriators for a “clean” bill free of “anti-home-rule riders,” such as a ban on local funding for abortion, which is in the House version.

Correction: 3:32 p.m.

An earlier version of this article mischaracterized what an amendment by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) would do. It would have inserted language clarifying that public schools, charter schools and the voucher program should all receive equal funding levels.

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