by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Commentary of the Day - Oct. 2, 2000: Dubya's Doubletalk on Vouchers:
One of the central themes of George W. Bush's education proposals is to return the control of education matters to local school boards and to the states. (In fact, most decisions regarding public education already are made by local school boards and the states.) However, as Ronald Brownstein, one of the deans of Washington political analysts, has pointed out in a Los Angeles Times article today, Bush seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to local control and vouchers.
According to Brownstein's article, the voucher proposal that Bush put forward on Sept. 2, 1999 would require schools that receive federal Title I money to test their students annually. Title I is aimed at narrowing the gap between students from low-income families and the remainder of the school population. Under the Bush voucher proposal the states would be required to offer $1,500 vouchers to parents of children in Title I schools that do not narrow the gap within three years. These vouchers could be used by parents either to obtain private tutoring for their students, or to send them to private schools.
As Brownstein notes, the first $750 of the $1,500 voucher would be supplied directly from the federal government. However, the states would be mandated to supply the remaining $750 either from their Title I money or from state money. Thus, states would be forced by the federal government to establish a voucher program whether they want to or not. This seems to contradict the claims of the Bush camp that they want to reestablish "local control" of the schools.
As Brownstein further notes, Bush and Cheney seem to have been backpedaling on the voucher issue in recent campaign appearances. Both Cheney and Bush have stated on the stump that the Bush voucher proposal would not require states to provide vouchers. Indeed, on a recent "Larry King Live" program on CNN bush was quoted as saying "I don't think the federal government ought to say, you will voucherize".
Actually, a $1,500 voucher is not enough money for a poverty stricken parent to be able to send his or her child to a private school that is likely to be any better than the failing school the kid is already in. However, there is a bright spot in the Bush proposal that even the Irascible Professor is willing to support. $1,500 is enough money for a parent to obtain about 150 hours of private tutoring for his or her child from eager college students. Most students in failing ghetto schools would be helped enormously, in the IP's opinion, by that kind of concentrated one-on-one help. The IP's advice to Bush would be to reformulate the voucher proposal as a "tutoring incentive" program that would work with the public schools instead of against them. With a little political legerdemain he might even be able to sell it as enhancing local control.
In the IP's spirit of independence, our next article will focus on one of the dumb aspects of Al Gore's education proposals.
© 2000 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.