Conservative Republicans had good reason to be wary of the budget deal that passed this week. It’s true that many of the cuts were more smoke and mirrors than genuine restraints upon government spending. Nevertheless, for all of the justified concerns about the deal, Congressional Republicans in general and House Speaker John Boehner in particular did well to avoid the trap set for them by the Democrats. Had they decided to shut down the government rather than accept this compromise, the political damage to them would probably have done more to set back their longterm strategic plan for budget reform than anything else.

Nevertheless, there was at least one bright spot in the deal that principled conservatives, as well as those who care about education, could embrace. As part of the last minute deal, President Obama and the Democrats caved on their opposition to the GOP plan to revive the school choice program in the District of Columbia. This voucher program had benefited disadvantaged D.C. children until Obama and the Congressional Democrats axed it in the previous Congress. Although pressed by their teacher union allies to squelch this effort to help poor children trapped in failed public schools, the president gave in to save other initiatives favored by Democrats.

This is good news for the children of the District of Columbia who once again will have the chance to attend a pricey private school like the tony Sidwell Friends attended by the president’s own two daughters. Although he will have to answer to his angry union friends, the president will be spared at least from having to go on playing the hypocrite on this issue.

But the victory is also a boost to the school choice movement around the country. Efforts to break the government education monopoly and give all parents the right to pick their children’s schools, and not just the wealthy, is advancing in several states. As the New York Times reported yesterday, campaigns in Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin to expand voucher programs have gained new momentum this week in the wake of what happened in the capital. Although some in the GOP may decry the willingness of the Republican House majority to get what was probably the best deal they could make this week, Speaker Boehner’s successful resuscitation of school choice in Washington may ultimately prove to be a far more significant victory for conservatives than any stand on the budget.

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