House Speaker John Boehner took a hit yesterday in, of all places, the conservative Washington Examiner, a newspaper owned by the same folks who own the conservative Weekly Standard. Columnist Harry Jaffee slammed the Speaker for his plans to impose a reinvigorated private school voucher program on the District of Columbia. Jaffe states he is neutral on the issue of private school vouchers in general, but "with one caveat: The scholarships should not be used for parochial school tuition. And that is exactly where they have been going."
The Founding Fathers must be frowning on House Speaker John Boehner; you can almost envision the furrow on Thomas Jefferson's brow.
How could this fine conservative lawmaker from Ohio, who often cloaks himself in the Constitution, go on a crusade to give federal funds to D.C.'s Catholic schools? What happened to the separation of church and state?
Why is this a church-state issue? Because the vouchers are overwhelmingly used for religious education. In fact, the Department of Education reports that about 80% of the participating students have used the voucher to attend religious schools. Although the program may not expressly favor religious schools over others, you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief to think that that's not one of the goals of the program's proponents.
Jaffe ties the program directly to Boehner's upbringing.
So let's not let Boehner kid anyone. He's a good Catholic, attended Catholic schools in Cincinnati, has raised funds for D.C.'s Catholic schools, reads to their students, invited Cardinal Donald Wuerl to the State of the Union. His bill is a subsidy, plain and simple.
Catholic schools provide a strong education, build character and give poor kids a way out. No doubt. In Chicago and other cities, Catholic congregations support vibrant school systems. The truth is that D.C.'s Catholic community can no longer finance more than a few schools, which is why Wuerl turned seven into charter schools.
When John Boehner attended Archbishop Moeller High in Cincinnati, his parents split the cost with the local parish. When his brothers attended, Boehner helped.
That's the American way, where congregations and families helped their own get religious education. That's the way Thomas Jefferson saw it, at least.
Indeed, that is the American Way. But apparently it's not John Boehner's way.