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Ryan Sticks to GOP Line on DC Voucher Program

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Congressman Paul Ryan's positions are being dissected from all sides now that he's been named Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney's pick for vice president. On one issue in the world of school choice, it's pretty clear that the Wisconsin lawmaker is ideologically in line with his running mate: private school vouchers in the District of Columbia.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, supports restoring funding for the D.C. voucher program, as do Romney and a number of GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. That's a break with the Obama administration, which proposed providing no funding for the program, currently funded at $20 million, in the president's fiscal 2013 budget

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The administration said that the program has enough funding to continue, and to serve new students, because of money carried over from previous fiscal years and because of money saved as students leave the program.

House Speaker John Boehner quarrels with that reasoning, as does Ryan, who sees the D.C. voucher model as a "critical program," said William Allison, a spokesman for the Republican majority on the House Budget Committee.

By "refusing to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the president and his party's policies are restricting parental options and denying low-income students access to a high-quality education in the nation's capital," Allison said in a statement.

While a number of Republicans have praised Obama's education positions—particularly his backing for charter schools, merit pay, and linking teacher evaluations to performance—the president and the GOP remain sharply divided on vouchers. Romney has called for a major expansion of vouchers at the federal level, allowing parents of children in special education and Title 1 programs to use their share of that money for private school costs. The former Massachusetts governor also said the D.C. voucher program should serve as a "model for the nation."

It's probably worth noting that Ryan's home state, Wisconsin, has been one the nation's leading laboratories for private-school choice, most notably through a voucher model in place in the city of Milwaukee. Whether the program has had a positive effect on the city's schools and students is a source of contention.

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