A Parting School-Choice Victory for Boehner, But White House Isn't Happy

“When money follows the students instead of schools and unions, it’s the kids who win,” he said.

The D.C. voucher program, McCarthy said, has produced “some amazing accomplishments,” noting that African-Americans comprise 95 percent of the students who receive scholarships and that they experience a 91 percent graduation rate – better than the 56 percent graduation rate of traditional D.C. public schools.

During the 2014-15 school year, 1,442 D.C. students received vouchers enabling them to attend 47 private schools. Most of those institutions – 80 percent – were religious schools. Vouchers provided up to $12,572 for high school students in the program, and up to $8,381 for those attending elementary school. Over the past 10 years, about 6,200 students have received vouchers, coming from families with an average household incomes of $20,575.

The proposal is opposed by the D.C. City Council, which maintains it should be empowered to make decisions regarding the D.C. school system. Some maintain taxpayer funds should be invested in the public school system, not distributed to private schools.

The future of the voucher program is decidedly murky. Supporters in the House don’t have sufficient votes to override a potential veto from President Obama. And it may not even attract enough support to foil a potential filibuster in the Senate. While a handful of Democrats in the upper chamber have expressed support for the measure, supporters likely have yet to reach the 60-vote threshold.

With theoretically only a few days left to serve, Boehner acknowledged that the voucher program “is personal to me and it has been for a long time.”

“But frankly, it ought to be personal to everyone in this chamber,” he said. “Those of us who work here, who make a good living here, owe something to the kids in this city. We owe the kids in this city a chance – a fighting chance. That is what I am asking you to do today. Help these kids get over the mountain. Help us keep building the little movement that could.”