Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Likely to Forgo Private School Voucher Plan Education Goals Testing, Funding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Likely to Forgo Private School Voucher Plan Education Goals Testing, Funding

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The incoming Bush administration has concluded that it faces insurmountable opposition in Congress to its private school voucher plan and has decided to focus instead on two other key education goals: regular testing of students and increased education flexibility for states.

President-elect Bush still intends to offer a voucher plan, but it will be more of a symbolic gesture to satisfy conservatives, according to transition and congressional officials. The proposal -- which would allow government funds to be used to send certain children to private schools -- likely will be sacrificed during negotiations aimed at achieving Bush's testing and state-funding goals, the officials said.

Democrats and Bush advisers agree that the testing and state aid elements of Bush's education platform have good prospects for passage by Congress, perhaps quickly. With relatively minor adjustments, Bush should be able to win the support of large numbers of Democrats in the House and Senate.

Lawmakers say there could be as many as 25 Democratic senators and a majority of Republican senators in support, with similar margins in the House.

"There's a lot of overlap here," said Sen. Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to Bush and a leading role in education policy. He called passage "a likelihood."

Bush's plan, which will be introduced on his first day in office or "very close to it," as a top aide says, would reduce the more than 50 categories of federal aid to states under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to five categories -- a simplification that will give states more freedom. Bush proposes spending an additional $25 billion over five years -- the largest chunk for a reading program and college grants for low-income students -- and he would have states devise annual tests for students. …

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