Congressional Hypocrisy on School Choice

Conn Carroll /

Foundry readers should check out the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial on President Bush’s proposal for a national Pell Grants for Kids school voucher program. The Journal asks a question that Heritage posted last year: “If unrestricted federal education grants are kosher for college students, why not for grades K-12 too?”

Pell Grants allow students to purchase an education at a school of choice — whether public or private, secular or religious. But while liberals are quick to support school vouchers for higher education, they are much less enthusiastic about giving students younger than 18 the same power to choose their school.

One might think that politicians who favor education scholarships for college would also favor giving the same opportunities to younger children. But the Journal is right that the President’s Pell Grants for Kids initiative is dead on arrival in Congress due to overwhelming opposition among Democrats. The Journal writes: “The reason, as ever, is because K-12 education is dominated by a union monopoly that can’t abide parental choice.”

What’s more, many liberals deny poor families the opportunity to choose their children’s school when they themselves exercised school choice by sending their own children to private school. A 2007 Heritage survey of Congress found that

37 percent of Representatives and 45 percent of Senators in the 110th Congress have at some time sent a child to private schools‹almost four times the rate of the general population.