An overlooked group of winners from Tuesday’s landslide election is low-income children living in Washington, D.C. Speaker Boehner is likely to make reviving the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program a priority in the next Congress, setting the stage for an interesting confrontation with President Obama.
To most Americans, John Boehner may be best known for his tan and golf game — a Washington Republican straight from central casting. But anyone who has followed Boehner closely over the years knows that Boehner is also a committed education reformer with a soft heart for low-income kids.
Beyond his work as a legislator, Boehner has been a tireless advocate for inner-city parochial schools. For years, Boehner has co-sponsored annual charity events with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (and other Democratic leaders), raising millions to help struggling parochial schools in Washington, D.C. The events also have provided a preview into the Republican’s softer side (which the country saw first-hand Tuesday night). He’s known for his tendency to choke up when talking about the need to give poor children a chance to attend better schools, and presides over these charity events with a box of tissues close at hand.
After President Obama’s election, Boehner led the Republican effort in Congress to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which was helping thousands of low-income children attend private schools in the nation’s capital. But Democrats and the Obama administration followed the teachers union’s orders — killing the D.C. voucher program in 2009. Reviving this symbolic program will now be a priority for conservatives.
This is just one of many interesting debates to look forward to in 2011 and beyond in Speaker Boehner’s House.