After subjecting the Appropriations Committee to a lecture regarding a lack of bipartisanship in the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) proved who is truly partisan by failing to recognize current school choice law. Senator Ron Johnson (WI) passed out copies of Public Law 112-10 to all Committee members. This measure was approved by the Democrat-led Senate and signed into law by President Obama last year. Despite the existing legal requirement and rhetoric regarding bipartisanship, Appropriations Committee Democrats unanimously rejected the amendment. Johnson said:
"Today, after listening to Senator Durbin bemoan changes in the Senate's political climate, every Democrat on the Committee refused to acknowledge current law by voting against including it in report language to this bill. While this may appear to be only a technical matter, it is emblematic of the double speak liberals routinely engage in. Senate Democrats say one thing and mean another, even when it comes to children. I don't know how anyone could watch the movie "Waiting for Superman' and then vote against this amendment. While Speaker Boehner is working to negotiate fair and full funding for children in DC who need this help, Democrats are willing to completely ignore the plan meaning of the law."
Johnson had earlier joined Senators Alexander (TN), Collins (ME), and Lieberman (CT) in a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Durbin, requesting full funding for the program. Despite the bipartisan support for the program, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government failed to fund the program in accordance with -- recommending just $13.5 million for the initiative. After the amendment was defeated today, supporters of the program made the following comments:
Senator Lamar Alexander (TN):
"Last year we worked to bring back the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program because it provided low-income students the opportunity to get out of underperforming public schools and attend a private or parochial school of their choice and had tremendously successful results. Now some in Congress are once again trying to gut the program by cutting its funding, and we're trying to give low-income students in Washington, D.C. a fighting chance at a good education."
Senator Susan Collins (ME):
"The value of educational choice provided by D.C. Opportunity Scholarships is clear," said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). "For many students, this voucher program is their first and only opportunity to receive a high-quality education. I have witnessed the success of this program first-hand. Parents have testified that they are more satisfied with their child's education. Independent findings from studies conducted for the U.S. Department of Education by the University of Arkansas confirm that students who participate in the school choice program have a higher graduation rate."
House Speaker John Boehner (OH):
"I appreciate Senator Johnson's efforts to remind Democrats of current law, a law they supported last year. Other interests have unsuccessfully attempted to terminate the program. I am committed to the success of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and will continue to ensure it is fully implemented and funded in order to provide students better education opportunities."
Johnson proposed to add the following language to the Committee report on the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act:
"The Committee notes that under Public Law 112-10, Division C (the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act), $60 million is appropriated for School Improvement in the District of Columbia, of which one-third shall go to the Opportunity Scholarship Program, one-third shall go to District of Columbia public schools, and one-third shall go to District of Columbia public charter schools. The Committee also notes that Public Law 112-10 also specifies that in the event that something other than $60 million is appropriated, such appropriation shall still be apportioned in equal thirds to the public schools, public charter schools, and opportunity scholarships in the District of Columbia, and that this requirement is applicable for the 5-year authorization period."