Mike Petrilli wrote an enlightening post about the hurdles that the Trump administration faces in trying to enact a $20 billion school choice program. He says that the Trump administration will need three “miracles” to make good on his promise. Mike, of course, is a strong supporter of choice and continues to believe despite 25 years of evidence that choice itself does not produce different results from public schools. Some of that evidence was sponsored by his own organization (the Ohio voucher study that shows kids actually losing ground as a result of shifting to private schools). His discussion of the federal legislative process and the politics of change are worthy of a read.

Miracle number-one is getting a federal tax credit enacted in the first place. This feels much less achievable after the health-care debacle in Congress last week. It was always going to be hard. We know from past Senate votes on private school choice that the numbers simply aren’t there. Virtually every Democrat is a guaranteed “no” (save, perhaps, for Cory Booker); too few Republicans are a sure “yes.” Rural-state Republicans simply don’t have the incentive to buck their education establishments to support a policy that will bring very little bacon back to their own communities.

The conventional wisdom was that the tax credit plan would be attached to a whopping multi-dimensional tax-reform bill, which voucher-squeamish Republicans would vote for because they wanted the other goodies included in the package. (Using the legislative process called reconciliation would make such a bill filibuster-proof, so no Democrats would be needed.)

After last week, however, Republicans of all stripes know that they can sink the President’s agenda by holding out for what they want. He is in a much more precarious political position than most members of Congress are. It will only take a handful of GOP Senators demanding the removal of the tax credit/voucher initiative from the tax bill for the Administration to cave. Though less likely, something of the sort could also happen again in the House.

If somehow Team Trump overcomes those seemingly insurmountable barriers, miracle number-two will be finding the sweet spot between too much federal regulation and too little. There are massive risks on both sides of that equation.

I would have added one more twist to the story he tells here: the question of where the $20 billion that Trump has promised will come from. Will it mean turning all current federal aid programs (Title 1, special education, etc.) into an unrestricted block grant? If so, the opposition from the groups (civil rights organizations, disability organizations) currently protecting the sanctity of these programs will be fierce.