Leave it to Mitt Romney, the nonconservative conservative running neck and neck with President Obama, to begin nudging Republicans and libertarians toward closing an ideological divide by proposing to grant federal vouchers to disabled and poor children and suggesting that school districts open their doors to children who don't reside in certain ZIP codes.
His proposals take school choice to an entirely new - and much-welcomed - level of discourse.
The Romney plan instantly snatches education reform from the province of Team Obama and its moneyed supporters by placing education dollars precisely where they belong: in the hands of parents.
As you know, states and localities decide where children attend school similar to the way governments determine voting precincts: by address and ZIP code.
Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, would change those circumstances regarding neighborhood schooling by overhauling Title 1, which aids economically disadvantaged students, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which targets special-needs students.
He would simply redirect federal dollars so that they follow the student.
"As president, I will give the parents of every low-income and special-needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school," Mr. Romney said at a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce event. "For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted. And I will make that choice meaningful by ensuring there are sufficient options to exercise it.
"To receive the full complement of federal education dollars, states must provide students with ample school choice," he said. "In addition, digital learning options must not be prohibited. And charter schools or similar education choices must be scaled up to meet student demand.
"Instead of eliminating the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as President Obama has proposed, I will expand it to offer more students a chance to attend a better school. It will be a model for parental choice programs across the nation," he said.
Libertarians and conservatives should especially appreciate this promise from Mr. Romney: "I will reduce federal micromanagement while redoubling efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results."
Vincent B. Orange
The at-large D.C. Council member tried his best Wednesday to get his colleagues to nominate him as chairman pro tempore, but the winning votes went to at-large independent Michael A. Brown, as expected.
But Mr. Orange, a newly elected Democrat, still can emerge a winner.
Last week, he proposed a great piece of legislation that would grant tax breaks to D.C. public school teachers who teach and live in the city. Mr. Brown told me he supports such a credit, a smart move on his behalf and one that he should promote publicly before his election campaign begins in earnest this summer.
In the meantime, Mr. Orange and Mr. Brown can kiss and make up after Wednesday morning's testy deliberations by coalescing around game-changing tax legislation.
The 13 lawmakers can't and won't always get along, but they can prove themselves worthy of being stewards of the public's trust and troth by ushering through important tax breaks for individual income earners.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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