- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2018


When news broke Monday that some D.C. officials cried foul because President Trump’s budget proposes cutting federal funding of a special college tuition program, I took it personally.

Prodded to send one of my daughters to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, my research on Tuesday led me to the city’s list of participating schools that would accept the federal government’s special tuition gift. MIT isn’t there, and neither are other academically lauded universities such as Yale and Harvard.

Oh well. Ivy doesn’t grow on all trees, even on the East Coast.

Then came this: Sanctuary city Mayor Muriel Bowser decided to play whack-a-mole with President Trump, using her rhetorical mallet to slam the president for proposing to defund the D.C. Tuition Assistance Program (DCTAG).

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton played along, calling DCTAG an initiative that has received bipartisan support since its congressional creation in 1999. She also said the president’s “draconian and backward budget shows how out of touch this administration is with reality.”

Forget the federal money. The DCTAG program should be funded for D.C. by D.C.

While you may agree that tart tongues are in order during the age of Trump, the president made two very fine points.

“While this program has helped many D.C. residents afford college, the financial position of the D.C. government has significantly improved since 1999 providing D.C. with flexibility to allocate local funds to support its residents,” the budget document said.

For sure, the city was broke until Congress and the White House usurped many of the city’s home rule privileges to erase the red ink and take painful whacks at its red tape and bloated bureaucracy.

The Trump budget also makes another vitally important point: There is “a lack of a clear federal role for supporting the cost of higher education specifically for District residents.”

There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that mandates federal education. In fact, the intentions of the Founding Fathers moves in the opposite direction, proclaiming in the 10th Amendment thusly: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

D.C. officials, then, are free to fund DCTAG as they see fit, if they can get the president and Congress on board, because the city needs both branches of government to agree on the city’s own budget plan later this year.

Mrs. Norton, who was privileged to attend Yale and its law school, understands how the Constitution and the law work. Indeed, she is a constitutional law scholar.

As for Miss Bowser, her alma mater, Chatham University in Pittsburgh, doesn’t accept DCTAG students either.

The DCTAG program is geared toward traditional public colleges and universities, and private schools in the D.C. area.

“Proprietary schools are not eligible,” the city’s website said.

Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, on the other hand, made the cut — and that’s a good thing.

Most of the 26,000 students who benefited from DCTAG are black, and for certain, a cultural and financial lifeline for HBCU schools.

Surely, with all the overspending on education, Miss Bowser, Mrs. Norton and other DCTAG supporters (which I stand among) can find reconfigure priorities to fund DCTAG with local-only dollars for local-only recipients.

Sometimes, libertarianism gets the best of fiscal conservatives, and up to $10,000, which DCTAG grants, can go a long way toward ensuring young people further their education — especially after they earn a high school diploma.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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