Senators Fail to Reach Agreement on DC Voucher Plan

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - After days of negotiating, Senate Republicans were unable to sway two Democrats to support a plan that would provide the District of Columbia with $13 million in funding for private school vouchers.

Without the support of Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.), the bill faces the prospect of a Democrat-led filibuster. The bill has enough support to pass the Senate, but Republicans don't have the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.

Landrieu and Carper would have supported the D.C. appropriations bill with changes to the voucher component. But when Senate Republicans couldn't guarantee that the Democrats' proposals would survive a joint House-Senate conference committee, Landrieu and Carper backed away.

They wanted to limit vouchers to students in failing schools and make private schools accepting vouchers accountable to the same standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), chairman of the D.C. appropriations subcommittee, said some of the concerns were addressed in an amendment adopted earlier Thursday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the few Democrats supporting the voucher plan, successfully attached the amendment, which requires students in private schools to take the same tests as their public school counterparts and mandates that private school teachers have a college degree.

"I've gotten a lot of flack because I'm supporting [vouchers]. And guess what, I don't care," Feinstein said. "I've finally reached the stage in my career where I don't care. I'm going to do what I sincerely believe is right."

DeWine said he would continue to work with Landrieu and Carper in hopes of resolving their concerns.

The $13 million earmarked for vouchers would provide $7,500 in scholarship money for about 1,700 low-income children to attend private schools. The House of Representatives approved a similar plan by a 209-208 vote on Sept. 9.

See Earlier Story:
Senate Voucher Advocates Make Last-Minute Pitch for Support
(Sept. 24, 2003)

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