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Following up on the earlier post about the the D.C. schools’ moment in the national political spotlight, here’s the exchange from the official debate transcript:

MCCAIN: I’m sure you’re aware, Senator Obama, of the program in the Washington, D.C., school system where vouchers are provided and there’s a certain number, I think it’s a thousand and some and some 9,000 parents asked to be eligible for that.

Because they wanted to have the same choice that you and I and Cindy and your wife have had. And that is because they wanted to choose the school that they thought was best for their children.

And we all know the state of the Washington, D.C., school system. That was vouchers. That was voucher, Senator Obama. And I’m frankly surprised you didn’t pay more attention to that example.


OBAMA: I’ll just make a quick comment about vouchers in D.C. Senator McCain’s absolutely right: The D.C. school system is in terrible shape, and it has been for a very long time. And we’ve got a wonderful new superintendent there who’s working very hard with the young mayor there to try…

MCCAIN: Who supports vouchers.

OBAMA: … who initiated — actually, supports charters.

MCCAIN: She supports vouchers, also.

OBAMA: But the — but here’s the thing, is that, even if Senator McCain were to say that vouchers were the way to go — I disagree with him on this, because the data doesn’t show that it actually solves the problem — the centerpiece of Senator McCain’s education policy is to increase the voucher program in D.C. by 2,000 slots.

That leaves all of you who live in the other 50 states without an education reform policy from Senator McCain.

So if we are going to be serious about this issue, we’ve got to have a president who is going to tackle it head-on. And that’s what I intend to do as president.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

MCCAIN: Because there’s not enough vouchers; therefore, we shouldn’t do it, even though it’s working. I got it.

Still no reaction from Fenty or Rhee, but LL will say this: Though Obama never says that Rhee opposes vouchers, he raises charters as if to rebut the fact that she supports vouchers. Which she does, if you read not too closely between the lines of Rhee’s quote that she “would never…do anything to limit another parent’s ability to make a choice for their child.”

And Obama’s retort about leaving “all of you who live in the other 50 states without an education reform policy” didn’t make a whole lot of sense. McCain can rightly claim a point on this one.

UPDATE, 1 A.M.: The official Rhee statement is out: “While Chancellor Rhee hasn’t taken a formal position on vouchers, she disagrees with the notion that vouchers are the remedy for repairing the city’s school system.”