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George W. Bush on School Choice


Parents & children must have other options when schools fail

American children must not be left in persistently dangerous or failing schools. When schools do not teach and will not change, parents and students must have other meaningful options. And when children and teenagers go to school afraid of being threatened or attacked or worse, our society must make it clear it’s the ultimate betrayal of adult responsibility.

Parents and children who have only bad options must eventually get good options if we’re to succeed all across the country. There are differences of opinions about what those options should be. I made my opinion very clear in the course of the campaign. I’m going to take my opinion to the Hill and let folks debate it.

Today I was pleased to see that Senator Joe Lieberman brought up his plan that includes different options for parents. It’s a great place to begin. He and I understand that an accountability system must have a consequence, otherwise it’s not much of an accountability system.

Source: Announcement of Education Bill (1st bill sent to Congress) Jan 23, 2001

Pushes OPTIONS for private schools; without saying VOUCHERS

Bush vowed to push the most controversial portion of his plan, school vouchers, albeit a slightly revised one in an attempt to win the support of reticent Democrats. “In order for an accountability system to work, there has to be consequences. I believe one of the most important consequences will be after a period of time, giving the schools a time to adjust and districts time to try different things,” Bush said. “If they’re failing, the parents ought to be given different options.”

Throughout the campaign year, Bush said schools whose students do not show acceptable rates of improvement on test scores would be given every opportunity to turn their failure rates around. After three years, if failure rates do not improve significantly, much of the federal money earmarked for the struggling schools would be broken apart and distributed to parents in the form of payments-or vouchers, according to some critics-that may be used to transfer students to private schools or more successful local schools.

Source: CNN.com Jan 23, 2001

Vouchers ensure school accountability

Bush said he was sticking with his education proposal, which calls, among other things, for parents to receive tuition vouchers that would allow them to send their children to private schools. “In the course of the campaign, I said that we were going to insist upon strong accountability -- that if a district or school receives federal money, they must measure so we know (if children are learning),” Bush said. If after a period of time, the schools did not meet certain standards, the federal monies that would have been spent on each child in the school system could be used by parents to send their children to private schools, Bush said, but left room for debate: “I’ve always believed that a voucher plan is up to the states.”
Source: CNN.com reporting from USA Today Jan 12, 2001

Vouchers are up to states; allow local control

GORE [to Bush]: Governor Bush is for vouchers. And in his plan, he proposes to drain more money, more taxpayer money, out of the public schools for private school vouchers than all of the money that he proposes in his entire budget for public schools themselves. And only one in 20 students would be eligible for these vouchers, and they wouldn’t even pay the full tuition to private school.

BUSH: First of all, vouchers are up to states. If you want to do a voucher program in Missouri, fine. I’m a governor of a state and I don’t like it when the federal government tell us what to do. I believe in local control of schools.

GORE: Under your plan, Governor Bush, states would be required to pay vouchers to students, to match the vouchers that the federal government would put up. Under his plan, if a school was designated as failing, the kids would be trapped there for another three years, and then some of them would get federal vouchers, and the state would be forced to match that money.

Source: (X-ref Gore) St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000

Allow “charter states” as well as charter schools

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” Sep 30, 2000

One size does not fit all in education

One size does not fit all when it comes to educating our children, so local people should control local schools. And those who spend your tax dollars must be held accountable.

When a school district receives federal funds to teach poor children, we expect them to learn. And if they don’t, parents should get the money to make a different choice.

And now is the time to make Head Start an early learning program, teach all our children to read, and renew the promise of America’s public schools.

Source: Speech to Republican National Convention Aug 3, 2000

Money from failed schools can go to charters or tutors too

If the schools are not teaching children, then something has to happen. We cannot continue to pour money into schools that won’t teach. As opposed to subsidizing failure, we ought to free the parent to make a different choice. It could be a public school. It could be a charter school. It could be a tutorial. It could be anything other than the status quo. Saying, “they’re taking money from public schools” assumes that children can’t learn. I believe children can learn.
Source: PBS Frontline interview, “The Battle Over School Choice” May 23, 2000

Tax money to religious schools OK, if they’re teaching kids

Q: Do you see any problem with taxpayers’ money going to a religious education?

A: No. I don’t at all. What I have trouble with is people accepting failure, with people turning a blind eye to the fact that schools are not teaching children. And I also have trouble with the federal government mandating school systems to behave one way or the other. The best way to encourage excellence is to free people to innovate. The federal government should not mandate choice and charters.

Source: PBS Frontline interview, “The Battle Over School Choice” May 23, 2000

Profit-making schools OK, as long as kids learn

Q: What about running schools on a profit-making basis?

A: Here’s my question: are the children learning? So much of the debate is focused on process. I’m going to focus the debate on results and accountability. If the children are meeting standards, we ought to applaud the delivery mechanism. I welcome all kinds of innovation into the system, recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all, and understanding that the best reforms are those that have been tried at the local level.

Source: PBS Frontline interview, “The Battle Over School Choice” May 23, 2000

Fund 2,000 charter schools; defund failing schools

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ Apr 2, 2000

Don’t subsidize problems in schools; solve them

Al Gore has gone into low performing schools & claimed my plan would undermine them. Gore has told schools, in essence, “You are hopeless. We won’t set high standards, because you’ll never achieve them.” This is not a defense of public education; it is a surrender to despair. I want to solve our education problems; Gore wants to subsidize them. I will work for children & parents. He will work for the entrenched interests that fund his campaigns. I will challenge the status quo; Al Gore is the status quo.
Source: Remarks after Southern primaries Mar 15, 2000

If schools fail for 3 years, funding becomes “portable”

Bush has avoided using the politically laden term “vouchers,” and instead says federal education money should be “portable.” Bush would, in effect, give vouchers of up to $1,500 each to students in low-performing schools that fail to improve after three years. These vouchers would be financed with money drawn from the Title 1 program. His voucher proposal would probably face stiff opposition in Congress, which declined to consider a proposal that would have created the very vouchers Bush seeks.
Source: New York Times Feb 29, 2000

Charters encourage innovative methods & provide choices

Charter schools encourage educational entrepreneurs to try innovative methods. They break up the monopoly of one-size-fits-all education. These diverse, creative schools are proof that parents from all walks of life are willing to challenge the status quo if it means a better education for their children. More competition and more choices for parents and students will raise the bar for everyone.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.233 - 234 Dec 9, 1999

$3 billion for Charter School Fund

Bush said he would require states to “test every child, every year, in grades 3 through 8.” Bush also would expand the federal Education Savings Account program to $5,000 a year per child for use in elementary and high schools. Currently, families can invest just $500 per child per year in the tax-free, interest-bearing accounts, and the money can only be used for college.
Source: Beth J. Harpaz, Associated Press Oct 5, 1999

School decisions by parents, not federal judges

Bush criticized the decision of a federal judge to suspend a Cleveland voucher program for more than 4,000 poor children, as “judicial overreach with serious casualties - Cleveland’s disadvantaged school children. Parents & local communities should have the right to chart their own path. If Ohio has decided to give Cleveland parents a choice of where to spend local education dollars, that decision should be left to parents, not federal judges. The court’s decision should be reversed.”
Source: News Release “Cleveland Voucher Program” Aug 26, 1999

Let poor people choose their schools, like rich people do

Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that parents should not be able to choose where to send their children to school. Nowhere does it say that only people who can afford it should be able to choose to send their children to schools with quality academics and sound discipline, but poor people should not. We must say, clearly and emphatically, that the people who need help should not merely be passive recipients of a handout, but should have the freedom to choose where they receive services.
Source: News Release “Cleveland Voucher Program” Aug 26, 1999

Vouchers a priority; encourage their spread

Although he has been unsuccessful in persuading the Texas Legislature to enact a modest school voucher program, Bush said he would make vouchers a priority as president. Noting vouchers were ‘public enemy number one’ to some advocates of public schools, Bush added, “We’ve got to figure out how to encourage the spread of vouchers so as to improve public schools and to convince people it will improve public schools. And we have not done a good job yet in Texas, apparently.”
Source: Dan Balz, The Washington Post Apr 25, 1999

Supports vouchers, including private or religious schools.

Bush’s long-term support for school vouchers [would] allow Texans to pay for tuition at private or religious schools with public funds.
Source: www.csmonitor.com/durable/1997/12/05/us/us.1.html 12/31/98 Dec 31, 1998

Vouchers tied to “accountability system”

If a child is attending a failed school and that parent is unable to find a public school to accept that child. our state [should] pay parents to send their children to any school of their choice-provided the school they pick is willing to participate in the Texas accountability system. We must not trap students in low-performing schools. We must give every child the opportunity to succeed. If this plan works-great! If it doesn’t then we should say, Interesting idea-at least Texas was bold enough to try.
Source: Natl.Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas, TX Mar 31, 1998

“Home rule” with state standards

“Home Rule Education Districts” [allows] any school district which so chooses. to declare itself free from any state mandate. So long as the district meets state standards, the local people should be free to chart the course to educational excellence. The state has a role, but it is not to micromanage local districts. The state should set high standards and hold teachers and administrators accountable for results. Our measuring system should be stable and open for review.
Source: 1995 State of the State Address, Austin TX Feb 7, 1995

Other candidates on School Choice: George W. Bush on other issues:
Pat Buchanan
George W. Bush
Al Gore
Ralph Nader

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Elizabeth Dole
John McCain
Robert Reich
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