. . . in the glacier-like movement of the debate over school choice can be found here from former D.C. mayor, Marion Barry (H/T: K-Lo at the Corner) and perhaps also here from Bill Bennett. Unusual bed-fellows? Yes. But sometimes this indicates potential for real movement on an issue.
Of course, Barry’s support for school-choice comes with a price tag: $74 million from the federal government for the 2009 school year. He says he would oppose the vouchers and scholarships if they "took money away" from public schools. So, it’s not perfect support for the principle, but it is--at least--a stronger admission of the problem and the potential for vouchers to address it.
Bennett’s point is less about school choice than it is about the decline in Catholic schools--stemming mainly from rising costs. As a result, they’re becoming something other than religious in their focus. This is a fair point, in my experience. These schools are getting so expensive (roughly $5K a year in my area) that they are becoming more like ordinary private or prep-schools--an accoutrement of the rich. And, because there are fewer religious on hand to man such operations (and this contributes to the cost), there is also little in place to counter the negative effects of such a change.
As costs rise in these schools, it’s not only those on the poorer end of the spectrum who begin to wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. As Bennett notes, parents begin to weigh questions such as value. One expects to get something more than the ordinary for $5K. And if it’s not religion and morals, then what is it? A higher quality education? Perhaps. But now that’s going to cost you. I think we may discover that religious education and high quality education are, in most instances, inexorably linked. In other words, as religion exits the religious schools there may be little there left to recommend them.