Congress Treats D.C. Citizens Like Lab Rats on Gun Control, School Vouchers

An odious legacy from our selfish Founding Fathers.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Of all the odious games played by our leaders in the nation's capital, the hoary practice of treating the residents of the District of Columbia as lab rats stands out.

This week we are treated to two examples of the arrogance that our selfish Founding Fathers guaranteed when they made the capital their federal plantation, beholden to the whims of Congress.

The topics—gun control and school vouchers.

The first rude intrusion occurred in the Senate, as a bill to give D.C. a voting member of the House of Representatives was making its way through Congress. Cowed by the gun lobby, the senators stripped the district of its ability to regulate firearms.

Because the city government is in the midst of a delicate (and very important to the rest of us) minuet with the Supreme Court over the Second Amendment, this congressional intrusion was particularly ill-timed. And cowardly. Senators voted to subject the district's residents to levels of danger they would never approve for their own constituents.

The second intrusion was by House Democrats. For several years, D.C. has been operating a small school vouchers program which, as an experiment, offers parents alternatives to the district's (sometimes dreadful) public schools.

Granted, the vouchers program was itself an ideologically-inspired congressional mandate—a legacy of previous Republican control of Congress. But it appears to have had modest success—enough to have won the support of some D.C. parents and officials.

Rather than waiting a reasonable period of time for adequate results to come in, the Democrats in Congress could not resist using the district's school system as their own political football. They have served notice that the district should prepare to re-enroll the voucher kids in the public schools next year.

As with the gun clause, the congressional timing is awful. The district schools are in the midst of a revolution, as a new generation of leaders is attempting to shake up and reform the system, laying their hands on any tool they can get.

If the federal government is willing to put a couple thousand D.C. kids from failing schools into private school classrooms for a few years, as the reforms take root, why not let the students learn? (That is not me talking, that is the question posed by Michelle Rhee, the D.C. schools chancellor, and leader of the reform movement.)

The good news is that the district may actually get a voting member of the House of Representatives soon. The bad news is that, with just that one vote in the House, and no D.C. representation in the Senate, it won't be enough to cure Congress of its bullying.

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