Washington, D.C., has long been a focal point of debates about vouchers and other forms of school choice–partly because the public schools there are so notoriously bad that a working majority of politicians and parents are open to experiments that might improve them.
Two recent articles highlight interesting developments. First, Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal challenges President Obama to fight congressional action that might terminate the D.C. scholarship program (which currently permits some students to attend private schools with assistance from public money).
McGurn describes “perhaps the most odious of double standards in American life today”:
the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people’s children — mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos — trapped in schools where they’d never let their own kids set foot.
Coincidentally, the New York Times looks at the situation at one of the recently Catholic-turned-charter elementaries in the Archdiocese of Washington. This phenomenon is likely to grow more common as big-city Catholic school systems continue to struggle financially. Reporter Javier Hernandez aptly captures both the attractions and the drawbacks of such arrangements: the schools stays open, offering a decent alternative to the conventional public school, but there’s no longer any prayer.
Among the big questions remaining is this: With the specifically Catholic identity of the school no longer in place, how long will the “culture” and the “values” that distinguish it persist?