“This is very, very important to him,” said
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). “So the White House would be wise to take that under consideration.”
Boehner said that Obama’s willingness to compromise on the D.C. measure would foster goodwill, and perhaps smooth the path for Obama’s ambitious school reform agenda, which includes revising the No Child Left Behind law.
“Of course, it would,” Boehner said. “It’s human nature. He’s got things that are important to him; I’ve got things that are important to me.”
Before he became speaker, Boehner, 61, was a regular at Catholic schools in the District, visiting more than a dozen and serving several times as a “mystery reader” in classrooms.
“It’s just Boehner and the kids,” said Elizabeth Ross, director of development for the Consortium of Catholic Academies, who was present for the visits.
At January’s State of the Union address, Boehner devoted his entire suite in the gallery above the House floor to students, parents and teachers from District Catholic schools. The next day, he joined Sen. Joseph
I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) to introduce their bill renewing the voucher program.
Students who were already getting scholarships two years ago continue to receive money, and the program has benefited about 3,000 students over the past seven years, giving them up to $7,500 a year.
Boehner “has been the one person that we could always depend on,” said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, who was a guest at the State of the Union.
While his legislative work on school choice traces back 25 years to his tenure in the Ohio state House of Representative, his first exposure was more personal.
When Boehner attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, his parents paid half the tuition and the local Catholic parish paid the other half.
The second oldest of 12 children, Boehner said he paid for several of his younger brothers to attend Moeller — and that experience taught him a lesson he later incorporated into his thinking about school policy.
“Competition makes everyone better,” Boehner said. “One of the problems with education in America is that there’s not enough competition in the K through 12 arena.”
Aside from working to provide vouchers for students, Boehner has also tried to help out some of the District’s Catholic schools. Working with a fellow Catholic, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and, after Kennedy’s death, with Lieberman and former D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Boehner has hosted fundraising dinners for the schools.