Yesterday, I watched D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray get arrested by Capitol Police while protesting Congress’s disregard for the rights of D.C.’s 600,000 citizens. This morning, I listened to NPR’s recap of the event. It’s nice to see D.C.’s lack of voting rights getting some national attention, but the piece seemed to miss the larger point by veering into a discussion of whether D.C. residents like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program (a.k.a “D.C. vouchers”), which was reinstated as part of Friday’s federal budget compromise. According to a proponent of vouchers interviewed in the piece, 74 percent of D.C. residents support the voucher program.
Well, that’s nice. But we can’t really know whether D.C. residents support the voucher program because residents have never had the opportunity to vote on it.
The fight over D.C. home rule–the right of D.C. residents to decide on their own laws and determine how to spend their own tax dollars–has nothing to do with whether vouchers are good education policy. It has everything to do with whether the rights of D.C. residents will remain Congress’s playthings.
While some may argue that I should be thanking Rep. Boehner for reinstating the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships program, I’d rather not. Just like I’m not going to thank him for imposing his will on my access to locally funded health care programs. Or thank the Democrats for taking away the voucher program in 2009. In fact, the only thing I will thank Congress for is if they give me a real vote on how to spend my tax dollars and govern my city.