The District of Columbia’s embattled school-voucher program, which lawmakers appeared to have killed earlier this year, looks like it could still survive.
Congress voted in March not to fund the program, which provides certificates to pay for recipients’ private-school tuition, after the current school year. But after months of pro-voucher rallies, a television-advertising campaign and statements of support by local political leaders, backers say they are more confident about its prospects. Even some Democrats, many of whom have opposed voucher efforts, have been supportive.
At a congressional hearing last month, Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and vocal critic of the program who heads the subcommittee that controls its funding, said he was open to supporting its continuation if certain changes were made. They include requiring voucher recipients to take the same achievement tests as public-school students.
The senator’s comments were a “really positive sign,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that supports vouchers and charter schools — public schools that can bypass many regulations that govern their traditional counterparts. “It’s clear the momentum is coming our way,” added Kevin Chavous, a former Washington city councilman who has appeared in television ads supporting the voucher plan, known as the Opportunity Scholarship Program.