Monday, September 08, 2003

D.C. stands for Disenfranchised Citizens

Imagine for a moment that we are in an alternate universe where Democrats are in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In this alternate universe, the U.S. Congress controls the budget for a tiny state whose population is overwhelmingly Republican. Now, imagine the outrage that would be heard if the Democrats in Congress were to use their budgetary powers over this group of people to experiment with various liberal social programs - perhaps they require that all the schools in this state distribute free condoms beginning in junior high school, or maybe they force all of the schools to adopt a non-graded, open format where students study at their own pace with no time or age restrictions limiting how quickly or how slowly they advance. Imagine that the Democrats can force this tiny state to serve as its guinea pig despite the unanimous objections of its political representatives.

OK, now back to reality. In the real universe, the Republicans control Congress and the tiny state that they are experimenting with isn’t really a state - it’s the District of Columbia, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. And the social experiment that the Republicans are trying to force onto the District is school vouchers.

“The plan to spend $10 million on vouchers for District of Columbia children, an idea supported by President George W. (Leave No Child Behind) Bush, was approved only narrowly, by a vote of 205-203. Four Democrats voted for it, with 201 Republicans.”

The political representatives for D.C. are opposed to the voucher plan because it would not help their public school system. Instead it would give a select few students the opportunity to bail out of the public school system, but since all of the public school children cannot be absorbed by local private and religious schools most will be (ahem) LEFT BEHIND!!!

The District’s non-voting representative in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, tried to have the voucher legislation stricken from the budget bill, but her efforts failed after a tie vote of 203-203 - a decision that she was not allowed to vote on!!!

I’m not sure that I would support D.C. statehood as opposed to having the Disctrict absorbed by an existing state- most likely Maryland - but situations like this just scream out the need for some resolution to the disenfranchisement of more than 600,000 people.

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