It's uncommon for the leader of a public school system to support a voucher program that diverts money from public schools to private schools. But the District of Columbia's schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, is not your typical public schools leader. She is the head of one of the worst-performing public school districts in the nation. And she supports vouchers if it means that children will attend better schools. That is exactly what school choice supporters say the Scholarships Opportunities program has done for children in Washington, D.C., since 2004. The program provides scholarships of up to $7,500 so that some 1,700 low-income, minority children in the city can attend private schools that are, by many accounts, better than the district's anemic schools. But now congressional Democrats could eliminate that option for D.C. families.
Last week, Rhee got word that federal funding for the city's voucher program might end by fall 2010 and that her public schools should prepare to re-enroll those students currently attending private schools on taxpayer money. Rhee was not thrilled with the news. "Part of my job is to make sure that all kids get a great education, and it doesn't matter whether that's in charter, parochial, or public schools," Rhee told the New York Times last week. She went on: "I don't think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids."
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