Thursday, April 7, 2011

House Passes DC Voucher Bill

With the battle still raging over budget issues, it seems to me that much of the battle is being waged over ideological lines, as opposed to strictly fiscal concerns. While I do not doubt that many House Republicans are concerned over the nature of government spending as a whole, it seems that many have been taking advantage of the current financial crisis to further religious and ideological legislation. For example, Congressional Republicans have been calling to end funding Planned Parenthood completely while advocating, and approving, the extension of funding for private and religious schools in Washington, D.C. This seems to me to be indicative of their ideological viewpoint. Organizations that are not Republican supported are facing budget cuts while pet projects of Republican Congressmen are being propped up and passed in the House.

One example of this is the DC Voucher Program. This program was in the process of being slowly phased out because of government reports that it was failing to improve education for students in DC, which was its entire purpose. However, new Speaker of the House John Boehner has effectively revived it and the House passed the measure last Wednesday with a 225-195 vote. The bill will allocate $300 million over the next five years. This, during a time of nationwide belt-tightening, seems quite contrary to the fiscal responsibility the Republicans keep railing on about. It isn't that $300 million is all that much money in the grand scheme of things, but when Republicans are targeting programs that they argue are ineffective and a waste of tax payer money it seems odd that this program is not being similarly targeted. The problem, I guess, is that they support this program and Democrats oppose it. That is the game changer.

I do not oppose measures that are aimed at improving our education system. However, when those measures are proven to be inadequate or fail to meet their designed goals they need to be scrapped. Furthermore, it is not a good policy to provide tax payer funding for religious schools. Religious schools should be funded through private donations and contributions because those providing the funding agree with the aim of the school and are willfully contributing. It goes against the constitutional separation of church and state to expect tax payers to fund a religious school. I suppose the argument could be made though that many of those who voted for the DC Voucher Bill probably disagree that there even is a separation of church and state since this erroneous idea has been so rampant lately. Hopefully the Senate will vote differently than the House but I doubt it. We'll see what happens...

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