Federal Files

September 24, 2003 1 min read

Education Bedfellows

OK, maybe having Bill Cosby as the night’s entertainment helped attract a large audience—and an Education Week reporter—to a black-tie event last week in Washington. But arguably the most striking thing about a fund-raiser for Roman Catholic schools in the capital city was the alliance of a staunch conservative and the quintessential liberal as co-hosts.

Last week, Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., helped attract a full ballroom at the Capital Hilton to raise $765,000 for the Center City Consortium, a nonprofit organization formed to help Catholic schools in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of Washington. And they dubbed it the “first annual” event, so it presumably was only the beginning.

The two men may disagree vehemently about whether the federal government ought to fund school vouchers for the District of Columbia—Rep. Boehner is for the plan, and Sen. Kennedy is against—but apparently they both believe that attracting more private tuition assistance is an important goal.

The last time the powerful lawmakers shared a stage was more than a year and a half ago, when they traveled with President Bush for the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. Mr. Boehner chairs the House education committee, and Mr. Kennedy is the top Democrat on the companion Senate panel. Both played critical roles in writing the law.

During the Sept. 17 event, master of ceremonies Tim Russert—best known as host of NBC’s “Meet the Press"—introduced Rep. Boehner by saying: “He is one of 12 children. Now that’s Catholic.”

“We probably don’t agree very often,” Rep. Boehner said of himself and Sen. Kennedy, “but there’s one issue that we do agree on, and that’s that every kid in America ought to have the same chance that we have in this room, and all of our kids have.”

When it came Sen. Kennedy’s turn to speak, he joked, “John Boehner and I have been trying to get on ‘Meet the Press’ for years. ... This is the closest we can get to it.”

One footnote: Also at the event was Secretary of Education Rod Paige. It’s not clear how to interpret this, but the secretary sat next to Sen. Kennedy, rather than the Ohio congressman. Better luck next year, Mr. Boehner.

—Erik W. Robelen