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Friends like these: George W. Bush and federal aid to nonpublic schools.

On 9 April 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation's first comprehensive initiative to provide federal aid to public schools. Title I of the Act created programs for "educationally disadvantaged" students, with "pass-through" provisions for nonpublic school pupils. Title II provided funds for the purchase of textbooks and other materials as well as the expansion of school libraries for public and nonpublic school children. Title III assigned monies for "supplemental services and centers" open to nonpublic as well as public school children. Title IV funded federal educational research, and Title V targeted state education agencies. Title VI/Chapter 2 enabled the acquisition of instructional materials and technology for nonpublic schools. Under the principle of "public trusteeship," public agencies in the states and localities would distribute federal funds to nonpublic school students. (1)

Congress and the presidents renewed the ESEA eight times between 1965 and 2002, yet the gains for nonpublic (mostly Roman Catholic) schools were more illusory than real. Despite evidence of significant movement by the presidents, public, cities and states, courts, students, and Congress toward greater school "choice," advocates of nonpublic school aid in many ways remained their own worst enemies.

THE PRESIDENTS

In mid-November 1968, with the Second Vatican Council meeting in Rome, and with 49 percent of the American people supporting public aid to Catholic schools, Indiana Democrat John Brademas of the House Education and Labor Committee initiated a series of secret discussions among Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel, National Education Association President Robert Wyatt, and William Consedine and Monsignor Francis Hurley, representing the American Catholic bishops. When President John Kennedy died, Lyndon Johnson inherited these talks, and this Protestant from Texas became an unlikely champion of Catholic education. "The spirit of interfaith cooperation in other parts of the society, particularly with regard to civil rights," Keppel would remember, was the catalyst for Johnson s promotion of the nonpublic school provisions of the ESEA. (2)

The next five presidents--Republicans Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and Democrat Jimmy Carter--sought to build on Johnson's success. In 1970, President Nixon approved an experimental Office of Educational Opportunity (later National Institute of Education) nonpublic school voucher project in selected communities, to be. administered by Christopher Jencks of the Center for Public Policy. In 1971, Minority Leader Gerald Ford foreshadowed his presidential support for nonpublic school aid by sponsoring a tuition tax credit bill in the House of Representatives. In 1978, President Carter created an Office of Nonpublic Schools within the Office of Education to encourage broader implementation of the ESEA's nonpublic school provisions. In 1987, President Reagan's "Economic Bill of Rights" proposal offered parents a "broad array of educational options" to be facilitated by more Federal aid to nonpublic schools. Bush-pronounced himself in favor of vouchers as a presidential candidate in 1988 and 1992. (3)

On 8 January 2002, with expansion of the ESEA (the No Child Left Behind Act), George W. Bush authorized record funding of Title I, but for the first time, public schools tested their third through eighth graders and needed to show annual academic improvement. Bush continued the ESEA's nonpublic school student participation in Title I's Improving Basic Programs, Reading First, Even Start, Family Literacy and Education of Migratory Children; Title II's (formerly Title III and the Eisenhower Program) Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund, Mathematics and Science Partnership, and Enhancing Education Through Technology; Title III's (formerly Title VII's) English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement; Title IV's Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities and Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers; and Title V's (formerly Title VI/Chapter 2) Innovative Programs and Gifted and Talented Students programs. (4)

THE PUBLIC

If one needs proof that the presidents receive too much credit and blame for their leadership abilities, one need only examine the changing fortunes of nonpublic school choice in public opinion polls. In 2001, after over a year of George W. Bush s campaigning for vouchers, the Gallup Poll showed only 34 percent of Americans and 30 percent of African Americans in favor of nonpublic school choice. By 2004, however, after Bush's three years of virtual silence on the issue, Newsweek discovered that 54 percent of whites, 66 percent of blacks, and 77 percent of Latinos now favored vouchers. (5)

THE CITIES AND STATES

If public opinion needed any affirmation, it arrived in many cities and states throughout the country. At the outset of the twenty-first century, eighteen states permitted public loans of textbooks, twenty-six allowed public transportation, and twenty-eight authorized public auxiliary services to nonpublic schools. Five states--Florida, Maine, Vermont, Ohio, and Wisconsin--enacted school voucher programs. Twenty-one governors were open to some form of nonpublic school choice. The private Children's Scholarship Fund distributed vouchers to 40,000 underprivileged children in forty-eight states. In 2001 alone, thirty-eight states considered legislation to create charter schools or voucher programs, and thirty-one states considered tax credits for low-income parents of nonpublic schoolchildren. "Why can't we have an entrepreneurial explosion in this country when it comes to educational services?" asked New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson, who pledged to hop on the nonpublic school choice bandwagon. "What we've got here is a monopoly." (6)

Though Johnson did not get his wish, Colorado was the next state to join the crusade for nonpublic school choice. In April 2003, Republican Governor Bill Owens endorsed a pilot voucher plan that would pay the tuition of low-income students in eleven school districts, including Denver, comprising 3 percent of the state's public school population. "I think we have a workable plan that will provide a very good example of the power of choice," said Owens. "I'm hoping that in a year, two, three years from now people will be saying, 'It worked in Colorado, Let's try it here.'" (7)

Before it could work in Colorado, the nation's capital decided to try nonpublic school choice. After the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests showed only 12 percent of fourth graders and only 10 percent of eighth graders in the District of Colombia "proficient" in reading, the Black Alliance for Educational Options launched a $3 million television campaign to extol the virtues of nonpublic school vouchers for the predominately black school system. One of its converts was Democratic Mayor Anthony Williams, who announced his support for $7,500 vouchers for two thousand public school students to attend, nonpublic schools in the District. "I do not know whether private school scholarships are the right answer nationally," the African-American mayor explained. "I believe that, along with the ongoing reform of our public school system and our burgeoning charter movement, they are valuable elements in giving hope to many parents who seek a quality education in our nation's capital." To allay the criticism that vouchers would drain resources from the public schools, the plan allocated additional money for the city's public and charter schools. (8)

After the nonpartisan Council of the Great City Schools denounced the "abysmal results" of the district's "incoherent" instructional program, and with Washington Teachers Union President Barbara Bullock about to be convicted of embezzling $4.6 million in union funds between 1995 and 2002, both houses of Congress approved, and President Bush signed, a $328 billion budget bill including D.C. vouchers. Jeanne Allen, president of the pro-voucher Center for Educational Reform, called the Congressional vote "the biggest educational accomplishment in this city in twenty years." The Washington Catholic Archdiocese prepared almost 1,400 slots for voucher students. At an anti-voucher rally after the vote, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia promised to work to repeal the nonpublic school choice program. "Even after this vote," said Kennedy, "do not count on vouchers coming to D.C." (9)

But over these protests, vouchers would come to the nation's capital at the end of an almost decade-long journey. While conceding that the D.C. program was local, not national, Deputy Secretary or Education for Innovation and Improvement Nina Shokrai Rees, whose Department would administer the program, added that Washington makes a "louder noise" than other cities. (10)

THE COURTS

And the United States Supreme Court makes a louder noise than other courts. In addition to the objection that vouchers would rob public schools to pay nonpublic schools, the other major criticism of nonpublic school choice programs is that, by including religious schools, they violate the separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Many state constitutions also include so-called Blaine Amendments, modeled after Maine Republican Senator James Blaine's failed effort to amend the U.S. Constitution in 1875 by outlawing public aid to religious schools. In 1947, however, the Supreme Court's Everson v. New Jersey upheld public aid, such as transportation to and from school, which benefits nonpublic school children rather than the schools themselves. Seizing upon this "child-benefit" theory, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 therefore authorized federal monies to religious schools for "auxiliary services" such as textbooks and "supplemental centers," but not for classroom construction or teachers' salaries. (11)

Three years later, in Board of Education v. Allen, the High Court upheld a New York law providing secular textbooks to nonpublic school children. In 1971, when Pennsylvania and Rhode Island attempted to pay salaries to religious school faculty, the Court, in Lemon v. Kurtzman and Early v. Dicenso, told them they could not. The Court ruled that such expenditures failed the so-called Lemon test, by which nonpublic school aid cannot be "a mask to advance religion." Its primary effect cannot be to help or harm religion, and it cannot constitute "an excessive entanglement with religion." On the same day, in Tilton v. Richardson, however, the Court upheld the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, which provided federal funding of religious as well as secular college construction. "Since religious indoctrination is not a substantial activity or purpose of church-related colleges and universities," said the Court, "there is less likelihood [of indoctrination] than in primary and secondary education." (12)

In Wolman v. Walter (1977), the Supreme Court ruled that Ohio passed the Lemon test by offering speech, hearing, and psychological examinations; remedial training and counseling outside of school; and standardized tests, to parochial schools. In 1983, in Mueller v. Allen, the Court upheld a Minnesota nonpublic school tuition tax deduction. Though the Court prohibited public school teachers from entering parochial schools to teach remedial classes funded under Title I of the ESEA in its 1985 Aguilar v. Felton and Grand Rapids v. Bell verdicts, it reversed its earlier decision a dozen years later when in Agostini v. Felton the Court "abandoned the presumption ... [of] state-sponsored indoctrination." In 1993, in Jones v. Clear Creek Independent School District and Zobrest v. Catalina School District, the Court permitted religious groups to meet after school in public schools and allowed publicly funded sign-language interpreters to accompany deaf children to Catholic schools. In 2000, in Mitchell v. Helms, the Supreme Court upheld the transportation and delivery of special education and services by public school agencies to religious schools. (13)

The climax of these accomodationist church-state decisions came on 27 July 2002 when, in a 5-4 decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court upheld a Cleveland program under which 96 percent of the children who received school vouchers attended religious schools. Because parents, not government officials, were the final arbiters of the use of tax dollars, Chief Justice William Rehnquist called the Cleveland plan "a program of true private choice." It was "entirely neutral with respect to religion," he wrote in his majority opinion, because "it provides benefits to a wide spectrum of individuals defined only by financial need and residence in a particular school district." (14)

The majority did not stop at justifying vouchers on First Amendment grounds, however. Borrowing from the rationale which had spurred black Democratic state legislator Polly Williams to push Milwaukee's pioneer voucher scheme, African-American Justice Clarence Thomas pronounced nonpublic school choice a civil right. "While the romanticized ideal of universal public, education resonates with the cognoscenti who oppose vouchers," Thomas wrote, "poor urban families just want the best education for their children, who will certainly need it to function in our high-tech and advanced society." Rehnquist's opinion contended that parents were not receiving the "best education" for their children in Cleveland's public schools, in which "only one out of ten Cleveland ninth graders [was] able to pass a basic proficiency exam, [with] two-thirds of high school students dropping out before graduation [in] a district that could not meet one of the eighteen state standards for minimal performance." Even the four dissenting justices--John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter--conceded, "The record indicates that the schools are failing to serve their objective." (15)

THE STUDENTS

If many public schools were failing, there was much evidence that "choice schools" were succeeding. An August 2000 study by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, chaired by Paul Peterson, concluded that African-American students in privately-funded voucher programs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Dayton, Ohio improved their average test scores after two years in nonpublic schools--four points in New York, nine points in Washington, and six points in Damon. A February 2001 study by Jay Green of the Manhattan Institute found that seventy-six public schools which had received failing scores on Florida's achievement test the first time would have lost students to nonpublic schools under the state's voucher law if they failed a second time. All improved enough to remove themselves from the list of failing schools in their second year. An April 2001 report by Harvard's Caroline Hoxby concluded that those Milwaukee public elementary schools where nonpublic school vouchers were readily accessible improved more rapidly between the 1996-1997 and 1999-2000 academic school years than did those public schools where vouchers were hard to obtain. (16)

A 2004 Public Policy Forum study found that 92 percent of Milwaukee's "choice" schools administer some form of standardized test to hold their students accountable. The researchers also concluded that student performance is lower in public schools located near "choice" schools and public schools do not suffer financially when they lose voucher students. They recommended continuation of the first-in-the-nation program, which serves low-income, predominantly minority students. (17)

THE CONGRESS

For the first time in the history of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the pro-choice Republican Party controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the new millennium dawned. "This is the heart of President Bush's education proposal," Colorado Republican Representative Robert Schaffer described the voucher provision. "Without the ability to exercise real accountability, real choice, this testing is nonsense." Republican Senator Jeffrey Sessions of Alabama added that nonpublic school choice would strengthen, not weaken the public schools: "The moneys [sic] that will support this will not in any way come from existing programs." (18)

THE DEFEAT

But there were not enough Republican votes in Washington to stave off yet another defeat for federal aid to nonpublic schools. On 2 May 2001, five Republicans joined all the Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to remove the nonpublic school option from Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. "We're debating a way to punish a school system that has over the years been deprived of funds," Democratic Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii spoke for the majority. "Let's not try to set up some of these false emergency exits where the doors are locked." Two attempts on the House floor by Republican Richard Armey of Texas to restore vouchers, the first as an alternative to "dangerous" or "low-performing" public schools and the second as five pilot programs for low-income students, failed when sixty-eight Republicans joined all but two Democrats to defeat the first, and thirty-seven Republicans joined all but three Democrats to sink the second. (19)

When the Bush legislation reached the Senate floor on 12 June 2001, Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire offered an amendment which would allocate $50 million to try vouchers in ten cities and three states. Eleven Republicans and all but three Democrats defeated the Gregg addendum. "Vouchers would weaken public schools by dividing already scarce funds needed for smaller classes, after-school programs, better facilities, and teacher training," Democrat Patty Murray of Washington spoke for the majority, "to pay for private school tuition for a few select children." The House and Senate then overwhelmingly passed, and President Bush signed, the No Child Left Behind Act--without nonpublic school choice. (20)

THE REASONS

If all the signs for substantial federal aid to nonpublic schools were so promising, why had its partisans come up empty? Upon deeper reflection, the prospects for such legislation were not as they appeared. First, presidents lost more times than they won in their pursuit of nonpublic school aid. A 1968 U.S. Office of Education study found that nonpublic school children were not receiving their fair share of ESEA hinds under the Johnson Administration because of hostility by the public school authorities who dispersed the monies; opposition by the judges who interpreted their state constitutions; and negligence by nonpublic school educators in advocating for their schools. The Nixon voucher experiment ended in 1975 and the Ford tuition tax credit never came to a vote. Carter's firm opposition helped sink a tuition tax credit sponsored by New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Oregon Republican Robert Packwood in the Senate in 1978, and Reagan's feeble support helped kill it again in 1983. The elder Bush largely gave up on vouchers between campaigns, and Democrat Bill Clinton, criticized for his inconsistency on other domestic issues, was remarkably consistent for eight years in his opposition to. nonpublic school choice, vetoing a voucher plan for the D.C. schools in 1998. (21)

Second, public opinion often depended on the wording of the questions. In a 2002 survey conducted by International Communities Research, a 51-40 percent majority in favor of nonpublic school vouchers became a 33-67 percent minority if choice "takes money from public schools." (22)

Third, when not responding to polls, citizens were going to the polls to vote against vouchers. In 2000, voters in Michigan and California overwhelmingly voted down vouchers, and the New York Times counted twenty-eight states rejecting, or postponing discussion of, nonpublic school choice that year. (23)

Fourth, the Supreme Court's embrace of nonpublic school aid in the Zelman case was as much the exception as the rule in the history of its church-state decisions since the advent of the ESEA. In 1968, in Flast v. Cohen, the Court supported the right of taxpayers to sue and test the constitutionality of the ESEA's nonpublic school provisions. The Court's 1975 Meek v. Pittenger ruling overturned a Pennsylvania law permitting publicly funded auxiliary services (for disabled, disadvantaged, or exceptionally talented students) administered with publicly owned instructional equipment and materials at nonpublic schools. In 1979, in Beggans v. Public Funds for Public Schools, the Court let a Third Circuit Court decision stand overturning a New Jersey nonpublic school tax credit. Its 1994 Board of Education v. Grumet decision prohibited New York's establishment of a separate public school district for the Satmar religious community. (24)

In his dissent in the Zelman decision, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the majority had removed "a brick from the wall that was once designed to separate religion from government, increasing the risk of religious strife and weaken(ing) the foundations of democracy." But most of the bricks remained untouched in Zelman's immediate aftermath. Even the Catholic governor of Wisconsin, Democrat James Doyle, vetoed an expansion of Milwaukee's pioneer program. "Look, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could properly_ supply non-religious textbooks to private school kids in 1968 [in Board of Education v. Allen], and it took the state of Maryland thirty-four years to get the message," recalled Dick Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Given that track record, we have a long way to go before the hope of vouchers is realized here." (25)

Fifth, the heralded successes of voucher students were open to question. The anti-voucher People for the American Way claimed the Peterson study "improperly compares two dramatically different groups and may well reflect private school screening-out of the most at-risk students." Mathematica Policy Research asserted that the New York results were not consistent across grade levels and that only sixth-graders achieved significant gains. The largest public school teachers' union, the National Education Association, criticized the Green conclusions for excluding "any other potential explanations for the results except for vouchers, cheating, or chance," adding that "the efforts that were made in these schools, not the vouchers" rescued the failing schools. Stanford's Martin Carnoy similarly observed that while Hoxby proved that the public schools that she studied improved during the existence of companion nonpublic school choice programs, she did not show cause and effect. A 2002 study by the nonpartisan Rand Corporation concluded that the improvement caused by vouchers was negligible--as little as one-tenth of one percent on some standardized tests. (26)

If the critics held the pro-choice scholars accountable, the voucher students themselves were often unaccountable. Despite the overwhelming presence of standardized tests in Milwaukee's "choice" schools, as late as April 2004 the schools were not required to track their students' progress, nor report such results to the state. Officials at the Nelson Mandella Academy of Science and Mathematics admitted enrolling two hundred students who never attended, hiring a principal who did not have a teaching license, then using those students' vouchers to buy a Mercedes-Benz for the principal and his assistant. Alex's Academics of Excellence, founded by a convicted rapist, received $2.8 million in vouchers over three years until the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed his record. As a result of these scandals, Wisconsin's government closed Mandella Academy, suspended Alex's Academics, and passed a law requiring voucher schools to report more financial information to the state. But higher academic accountability did not accompany stricter financial accountability. (27)

Sixth, Congress allowed the politics of nonpublic school aid, as it had so often in the past, to lose to the politics of public school aid. In an attempt to duplicate his fellow Texan s success in 1965, George W. Bush combined public and nonpublic school aid in the same bill. But Bush's ostensible allies in Congress wanted an education bill--virtually any education bill--much worse than they wanted vouchers. It took the president only three days to submit his No Child Left Behind Act to Congress, and only three sentences to signal his ambivalence about vouchers. "Parents and children who have had only bad options must eventually get good options if we're to succeed all across the country," said the president hopefully. "There are differences of opinion about what those options should be. I made my opinion very clear in the course of the campaign and will take my opinion to the Hill and let folks fully debate it." (28)

The next day Roderick Paige took office as Secretary of Education after assuring the Senate Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in his confirmation hearings that vouchers would not be a "priority" in the Bush bill. Three months later the president reiterated, "I realize that all the differences between parties and different sides of the choice issue will not dissolve overnight." (29)

Bush was right--the differences took another two months to dissolve in the House and another three months to dissolve in the Senate. "We don't have equal education choice for our students," said Ohio Republican John Boehner, House manager of the No Child Left Behind Act, in defending his decision to vote in committee in favor of nonpublic school choice. "Those who think we should blow up this process and move a partisan bill are short-sighted," said Boehner in defending his decision to vote the Bush bill out of committee without nonpublic school choice. "It targets and is limited to failing schools and low-income families," said New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, Senate manager of the No Child Left Behind Act, offering his amendment to restore nonpublic school choice. "The policy in this bill is strong. It is unique in the sense of the tradition of Federal involvement in education in that it takes a new road to a large degree," said Gregg in defending his decision to vote for the Bush-bill on the Senate floor without his amendment. (30)

In some ways the Bush about-face on vouchers is not surprising. After all, he was following in the tradition of Presidents Richard Nixon through George H.W. Bush in sacrificing nonpublic school aid in his quest for public school aid. "The federal government has done its best work when the nation's leaders have identified a clear problem and amassed the political will to pursue tangible action," writes Paul Light of the Brookings Institution in his study of Washington's greatest achievements of the latter half of the twentieth century. "Conversely, the federal government has created its greatest disappointments when the nation's leaders have sent mixed signals about whether and how to solve a problem and/or have been unwilling to commit the resources needed/or progress." (31)

President Bush's "mixed signals" about vouchers were also in the tradition of his own governorship in Texas (1995-2001), where he had similarly proposed, then disposed of, nonpublic school choice. Rather than fight, and risk losing to, the Democratic majority in the legislature, Governor Bush had worked with them, becoming an "Education Governor" with a record of standards-based reform on which to run for president. (32)

There was even a certain logic to President Bush's political calculations. Like many Americans--most, if one believes those polls--President Bush wanted above all to improve the public schools, and vouchers would offer needed competition to do so. It follows, therefore, that the more successful Bush s public school standards would become, the less necessary vouchers would be. In the same 2001 Gallup Poll which showed only about one-third of Americans in support of vouchers, two-thirds expressed support for at least as much testing of their children as was occurring in the states before passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, and for the first time in the thirty-three years of the survey, a majority give their public schools a grade of A or B. Bush's original plan called nonpublic school choice for students in "failing" public schools, which, according to most Americans, did not exist. (33)

Though the Bush Administration did not share this optimistic outlook before or after passage of NCLB (so many schools would "fail" after the law's first two-and-one half years that the Department of Education would have to weaken its standards), it did acknowledge, perhaps prematurely, the long political odds of "having it both ways" on public school accountability and nonpublic school choice. The narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the tie in the Senate (broken first by Vice President Richard Cheney, then by Republican James Jeffords' May 2001 decision to become an Independent) made the passage of vouchers highly problematic, even if Bush had pushed hard for them. A closely divided Congress after a bitterly divisive election invited the kind of reckless partisanship which the public school teacher unions were ready to exploit. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association had at least come part of the way on public school standards (the AFT helped draft NCLB and the NEA did-not oppose its passage), but neither had budged an inch toward nonpublic school aid, which are anathema to the educators they represent and the Democrats they endorse. The NEA opposed "alternatives that divert attention, energy, and resources from the efforts to reduce class size, enhance teacher quality, and provide every student with books, computers, and safe and orderly schools." To the AFT, nonpublic school choice was "bad public policy, and we will continue to oppose new voucher laws at the same time as we fight to improve the public schools. After all, that's where 90 percent of America's children go." (34)

And though most Roman Catholics supported the vouchers which would disproportionately benefit their church's schools, they nonetheless prepared to give about one-half their votes for president to Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Catholic challenger who opposed vouchers, and the other half to the Methodist incumbent who failed to deliver them. Though Democratic presidents dare not offend teacher unions by embracing vouchers, Republican presidents can afford to upset some Catholics By abandoning vouchers. When he spoke at the (Catholic) Knights of Columbus convention in Dallas exactly three months before the 2004 election, President Bush devoted only three sentences to nonpublic school choice--for the capital, but not for the nation. "I want to thank the Knights for their help in helping low-income parents in Washington D.C. ... have their children escape from schools that will not teach and will not change," said the president. "Because of the work of the Knights of Columbus and other concerned citizens in our nation's capital, poor parents now have a choice. They'll have a $7500 scholarship so they can afford to send ... their child to a private or parochial school." Yet he received several standing ovations. (35)

CONCLUSION

As the first four years of the Bush presidency were about to expire, the chief executive could claim some success in the area of national nonpublic school choice. His 2001 tax reduction included about $30 billion in education tax breaks over ten years, allowing as much as a $2,000 annual investment in education individual retirement accounts toward private elementary and secondary school tuition. "This is the first time the federal government will provide financial assistance to kids in the K through 12 [private] schools," said Clint Bolick of the pro-voucher Institute for Justice. "If it doesn't hurt to give it to middle-income families, it wouldn't hurt to give it to low-income families." (36)

Many in Congress believed, however, that it would hurt to give low-income families nonpublic school choice. It would hurt the public schools through lost revenue and the voucher students through lost accountability. George W Bush did not believe either of these claims, but he decided, for principled as well as political reasons, that he needed an education bill-more than the nation's disadvantaged students needed vouchers. Presidents, after all, have choices.

(1.) Lawrence McAndrews, Broken Ground: John F. Kennedy and the Polities of Education (New York: Garland Publishing, 1991), 219.

(2.) Ibid., 177.

(3.) "The Jencks Tuition Voucher Plan," America, 20 June 1970, 644-45; "Parochiaid: Drawing the Lines," Christianity Today, 1.0 September 1971, 43; Letter from Elizabeth Abramowicz to Rev. John Meyers, 5 May 1978, White House Central Files, Subject File: Education, Box ED-3, Folder: Ed 1/1/78-9/30/78, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga.; Ronald Reagan, "America's Economic Bill of Rights," 3 July 1987, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan: Book I, 1987 (Washington D.C., United States Government Printing Office, 1988), 745; Lawrence McAndrews, "Choosing 'Choice': George H. W. Bush and Federal Aid to Nonpublic Schools," Catholic Historical Review 87 (July 2001): 453.

(4.) "Public Policy: No Child Left Behind Act," available online at www.ncea.org [cited 9 February 2005].

(5.) Tamara Henry, "Poll: Vouchers Lose Support, but Public Schools Gain," USA Today, 23 August 2001, sec." A, p. 1; Juan Williams, "Bush Shouldn't Write Off the Black Vote," New York Times, 16 June 2004, sec. A, p. 19.

(6.) Nina Skokrai Rees, School Choice 2000: What's Happening in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 2001), xxi-xxii; Jodi Wilgoren, "Two Florida Schools Become Testing Ground for Vouchers," New York Times, 14 March 2000, sec. A, p. 18; Jodi Wilgoren, "School Vouchers: A Rose by Other Name?" New York Times, 20 December 2000, sec. A, pp. 22.

(7.) Greg Toppo, "Vouchers Gain An Early Foothold," USA Today, 2 April 2003, sec. D, p. 10.

(8.) Tamara Henry, "Alliance Promotes Vouchers," USA Today, 7 May, 2001, sec. D, p.1; Alan Borsuk, "Washington Schools Study Voucher Program," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2 November 2003, sec. A, p. 20.

(9.) Craig Timberg, "Mayor Rails Against City's Status Quo, Pushes Plan," Washington Post, 6 February 2004, sec. B, p. 5; Carol Leonning, "Ex-Teacher's Union Chief Gets Nine Years," Washington Post, 31 January 2001, sec. A, pp. 1, 12; Spencer Hsu and Justin Blum, "D.C. School Vouchers Win Final Approval," Washington Post, 23 January 2004, sec. A, pp. 1, 4.

(10.) Borsuk, "Washington School Studies Voucher Program," 10.

(11.) McAndrews, Broken Ground, 26-27.

(12.) Lawrence McAndrews, " Unanswered Prayers: Church, State, and School in the Nixon Era," U.S. Catholic Historian 13 (Fall 1995): 85.

(13.) Lawrence McAndrews, "Recent History of Catholic Schools and Public Funding," in One Hundred Years of Catholic Education, ed. John Augenstein, Christopher Kauffman, and Robert Wister (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Education Association, 2003), 162, 165, 166, 168, 169; Vern Brimley and Rulon Garfield, Financing Education in a Climate of Change (Boston, Mass.: Pearson, 2005), 264-65.

(14.) "Vouchers Have Overcome," Wall Street Journal, 28 June 2002, sec. A, p. 11; Charles Lane, "Court Upholds School Vouchers," Washington Post, 28 June 2002, sec. A, pp. 1, 11.

(15.) "Vouchers Have Overcome," 11; Lane, "Court Upholds School Vouchers," 1, 11.

(16.) William Howell, Patrick Wolf, Paul Peterson, and David Campbell, "The Effect of School Vouchers on Student Achievement: A Reponse to Critics," Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, n.d., 1; Diana Schemo, "Voucher Threat Incites Schools to Improve, Florida Study Says," New York Times, 16 February 2001, see. A, p. 14; Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, "MPS Gains Are Linked to Vouchers," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 April 2001, sec. A, p. 1.

(17.) Sarah Carr, "Ninety-two Percent of Choice Schools Use Standardized Test, Report Says," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 14 February 2002, sec. B, p. 1. Sarah Carr, "Reinforce Choice, Researchers Say," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 22 January 2'001, sec. B, pp. 1-2.

(18.) Lizette Alvarez, "House Democrats Block Voucher Provision," New York Times, 3 May 2001, sec. A, p. 21; Congressional Record, 12 June 2001, S6068.

(19.) "House Votes," Congressional Roll Call, 2001 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2002), H52.

(20.) "Senate Votes," Congressional Roll Call, 2001 (Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2002), S39; Congressional Record, 12 June 2001, S6071.

(21.) "Shortchanging Nonpublic School Pupils," School and Society, 6 January 1968, 25; Brimley and Garfield, Financing Education in a Climate of Change, 268; McAndrews, "Recent History," 161,163, 166, 167, 169.

(22.) "Poll: Impact on Public Schools Diminishes Support for Vouchers," Green Bay Press-Gazette, 7 August 2002, sec. A, p. 1.

(23.) Wilgoren, "School Vouchers: A Rose by Other Name?" 22.

(24.) McAndrews, "'Recent History," 158, 161, 164, 168.

(25.) Sarah Carr and Steven Walters, "Doyle Vetoes School Choice Bills," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "27 November 2003, sec. A, p. 1; Lane, "Court Upholds School Vouchers," 11; Brigid Schulte, "Votes Protective of Public Schools, Wary of Vouchers," Washington Post, 28 June 2002, sec. A, p. 11.

(26.) Howell, Wolf, Peterson, and Campbell, "The Effect of School Vouchers on Student Attendance," 1-2; Schemo, "Voucher Threat Incites Schools to Improve, Florida Study Says," 14; Schulofer-Wohl, "MPS Gains Are Linked to Vouchers," 10.

(27.) "Milwaukee's School Voucher Program is Racked by Scandal," Green Bay Press-Gazette, 11 April 2004, sec. B, p. 4.

(28.) George W. Bush, "Remarks on Submitting the Education Reform Plan to the Congress, January 23, 2001," Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Book I, 2001 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 2003), 13.

(29.) Ruben Navarette, "School Choice Constituents Have a Right to Feel Sold Out," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 June 2001, sec. J, p. 1; George W. Bush, "Remarks on Parental Empowerment in Education," 12 April 2001, Public Papers, 397.

(30.) Alvarez, "House Democrats Block Voucher Provisions," 21; Congressional Record, 12 June 2001, $6063.

(31.) Paul Light, Government's Greatest Achievements (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002), viii.

(32.) Alexander Ide, George W. Bush.. Portrait of a Compassionate Conservative (Las Colinas, Tex.: Monument Press, 2000), 133.

(33.) Henry, "Poll," 1.

(34.) "Vouchers," available online at www.nea.org [cited 5 August 2004]; Sandra Feldman, "Voucher Schools Must Be Held to the Same Standard as Public Schools," July 2002, available online at www.aft.org [cited 5 August 2004].

(35.) "President Discusses Compassionate Conservative Agenda in Dallas," 3 August 2004, Office of the Press Secretary, White House, available online at www.whitehouse.gov [cited 5 August 2004); Jeff Zeleny, "In Texas, Bush Woos Catholics," Chicago Tribune, 4 August 2004, sec. 1, p. 5; "Bush Courts Catholics at Knights of Columbus Confab," Richard Benedetto, USA Today, 4 August 2004, sec. A, p. 2.

(36.) Glen Kessler and Michael Fletcher, "Tax Bill Gives Benefits for Education," Washington Post, 31 May 2001, sec. A, p. 1.

LAWRENCE J. MCANDREWS (B.A., University of Notre Dame; M.A., Millersville University; Ph.D., Georgetown University) is professor of history, St. Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in Catholic Historical Review, U.S. Catholic Historian, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Journal of Church and State, Journal of Negro History, Religion and Education, and Educational Foundations, among others. Special interests include twentieth-century U.S. political history, U.S. education history, and the American presidency.
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Author:McAndrews, Lawrence J.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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