- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

“I fully and strongly support [President Bushs] initiative to bring scholarships to this city,” Mayor Anthony Williams said Thursday at Community Academy Public Charter School. “We will find that our regular public schools will end up in better shape.” The mayor’s newfound support for vouchers earned him considerable applause from parents and other supporters of school choice and a biting (but not unexpected) denunciation from fellow Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, who chided the mayor for not consulting with her. She also said the mayor is “selling out” home rule, “shopping home rule” for federal dollars, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when those dollars are for poor families.Earlier this year, Mrs. Norton challenged a Republican congressmen for sponsoring voucher legislation. “If [Jeff Flake] wants a fight, he will get one, a big one, Mrs. Norton said at the time. That’s not exactly the type of competition school-choice supporters expected, and while political sparring is a staple in Washington, instigating a turf battle with the mayor is an interesting precedent. Political correctness might call for the mayor to seek counsel from the city’s nonvoting delegate, but PC and Mayor Williams don’t always work well together. We pat the mayor on the back for taking such a courageous stand on this very important educational matter — and at this particular juncture.Congress is considering a $7 million school-choice funding package, with the money specifically earmarked for scholarships that would allow underprivileged D.C. parents to send their children to private schools. School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who was at the same event on Thursday as the mayor and Education Secretary Rod Paige, just recently lent her voice to the pro-voucher movement. Meanwhile, the D.C. Council, which is poised to vote May 6 on the mayor’s spending plan for next fiscal year, has warned him against raising taxes to increase spending on his priorities, including schools. Council member Kevin Chavous, chairman of the education committee and a supporter of charter schools, has not publicly endorsed vouchers. The other council members often look to Mr. Chavous since he looks closely at all the numbers — the enrollment figures, the dollar signs and the test scores. Year after after (as the school system tries to “reform’ itself), enrollment figures and test scores decline while spending increases. Fortunately, many of those who fled the system are now flourishing in charter schools. With vouchers, many more could do better. As the mayor, Mrs. Cafritz and Mr. Chavous said, common ground can be found. It was a fitting way to wrap up National Charter Schools Week.

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