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Bill to revive D.C. school vouchers passes U.S. House of Representatives

School vouchers are on the road to being revived in Washington, D.C. Even though Washington D.C.'s mayor and congressional delegate disapprove, a measure was passed in the House of Representatives on March 30, 2011 to bring back the federally-funded program. The bill now needs to go through the Senate, and it's uncertain if it will pass with a Democratic-controlled Senate. Only one Democrat voted for the bill, which was written by Republicans, in the House.

School vouchers were created as a way for select low-income students to have the opportunity to attend private schools. The taxpayer-funded vouchers being proposed would give students in kindergarten through eighth grade $8,000 a year and high schoolers $12,000 a year to pay for private schooling. Supporters of the bill said it levels the playing field by giving students zoned for poorly performing schools the opportunity for a better education. Opponents say it's not fair to use taxpayer money for private schools and the money would be better spent trying to fix the poorly performing Washington D.C. schools.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings from Maryland, a Democrat, said the reason the 2004 voucher program ended in the first place is because it wasn't a sound idea. He said, "Why the self-proclaimed party of fiscal conservatism would support authorizing millions … for a downright useless program with no [spending] offset is beyond me." The White House agrees, issuing a statement that read in part: "The federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students."

Not surprisingly, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. supports the bill, because it would make the area Catholic private schools accessible to a wider diversity of students. Washington, D.C. archbishop Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in a statement, "Access to quality education should not be denied because of one's income or residence." He called the day of the vote a great day for all children in Washington.

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