This from Washington Post by Ben Pershing and Paul Kane:
In these dire fiscal times, when even the sacred programs are no longer sacred, Republican leaders have still been able to identify a few that they think deserve more money.

And then there’s a little-known program, which gives money to disadvantaged District students to attend private schools, that would get an additional $2.3 million — thanks largely to one powerful patron, House Speaker John A. Boehner .

In his opening gambit as the House’s top leader, Boehner has put his name and new-found clout behind a pair of efforts to give poor students a chance to attend private schools and, in the process, boost the city’s struggling Catholic schools.

In addition to the extra $2.3 million in the House-passed spending bill for 2011, Boehner has also submitted a bill that would authorize an additional $20 million per year over the next five years. That bill, the only one that bears Boehner’s name this year, was approved by a House committee last week.

The speaker’s actions renew a fight he lost two years ago, when opponents killed a voucher program over concerns that it robbed resources from public schools. On Monday, after President Obama renewed his push for education reform at an Arlington County middle school, House Republicans linked the president’s success on his goals to his willingness to embrace Boehner’s.

City leaders remain divided on the issue, and some resent the speaker’s efforts, saying they are just the latest unwanted example of Republican lawmakers using the District as a testing ground for their pet policy experiments.

At a House hearing this month, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said that if Republicans were really concerned about improving education in the District they would devote more funding to public alternatives, such as charter schools.

“The inescapable conclusion is that the Republicans believe they can indulge their personal and ideological preferences with impunity here in the District,” Norton said.

Boehner argues that his plan would create opportunities, rather than restrictions, for city residents. He wants local students to have the same chance he did: to follow a Catholic school path that he credits with helping him rise from the working-class suburbs of Cincinnati to the most powerful man in Congress.

“I just think it’s horrendous that you’ve got one of the worst school districts in the country right here in the District of Columbia,” Boehner said in a late January interview in his Capitol office, adding: “We’ve cut a lot of money out of the budget over the last month. We’ve got a lot more we’re going to cut. But I think we can afford to do this.”

read more>>