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Reason Foundation

Some Democrats Supporting School Vouchers

Positive development for school choice

Lisa Snell
November 1, 2008

Marion Barry, the famous (and notorious) former Washington mayor, still has the capacity to surprise jaded political junkies. Writing in The Washington Post in May, the liberal Democrat endorsed the D.C. school voucher program. "I know it may surprise some that I would support a school voucher program, but I am proud to do so," he announced.

But maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise. In the last three years, three-quarters of the legislative victories for school choice happened because of Democratic support.

In April 2006, Wisconsin's Democratic governor Jim Doyle signed a big expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program. In June 2006 Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, another Democrat, allowed the creation of a tax-credit scholarship program and signed two new voucher programs into law. In July 2007 yet another Democrat, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, signed a $16 million increase to the state's tax credit program. Fellow Dem Iowa Gov. Chet Culver increased the state's educational tax credit program by $2.5 million in May 2007.

This summer Louisiana passed a voucher program forNew Orleans students with a large bipartisan majority, 60 to42 in the state House and 25 to 12 in the Senate; it will use $10 million in state money to pay private school tuition for as many as 1,500 children. And on July 2, 2008, a third of Florida's Democratic caucus helped pass a $30 million expansion of the corporate tax credit program.

Overall, student enrollment in private school choice programs has increased by 84 percent from 2003 to 2007, according to the Alliance for School Choice's School Choice Yearbook 2007. This year the five states with the largest school choice programs are Democrat-dominated: Florida (39,000 students), Pennsylvania (38,000), Arizona (28,000), Wisconsin (19,000), and Ohio (14,000). Each of those programs continues to demonstrate solid year-toyear growth in student enrollment.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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