It is generally agreed that once a federal government program gets started it is all but impossible to end it.

Last week, though Congress quietly stuck a shiv in the back of a highly popular program to provide scholarship vouchers to hundreds of Washington, D.C., schoolchildren allowing them to escape the city's notoriously broken public schools.

Seventeen hundred low-income kids have attended private schools under the program and their test results have shown notable improvement, especially in reading.

Parents strongly support the program. The mayor is for it; so is the city's reform-minded school superintendent. But the teacher's unions, who have seemingly unlimited sway with congressional Democrats, don't like the program. They say such voucher systems siphon funds away from public schools which desperately need it. But this program is federally funded and costs the D.C. school system nothing. In fact, it saves money by sending hundreds of students elsewhere.

The real reason seems to be that the program works and thereby threatens the monopoly the public schools and their unions now enjoy. So language to end the program was quietly inserted in that massive trillion spending bill now working its way through Congress.

Fingerprints are hard to find, but the point-man against the program has been the Senate's No. 2 Democrat: Dick Durbin of Illinois. The AFL-CIO's most recent rating of his support was 100 percent — small wonder.

Brit Hume is the senior political analyst for Fox News Channel.