Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Unveils Plan for School Vouchers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Unveils Plan for School Vouchers

Article excerpt

OFFERING a new spin on its school "choice" agenda, the Bush administration last week proposed offering low and middle income parents $1,000 vouchers to help send their children to the public, private or religious schools of their choice.

The idea promises to be a political debating point this presidential season. But no one - not even the Bush administration, which unveiled the plan in a White House ceremony with more than a thousand guests - expects Congress to touch the controversial issue this year.

The proposed $500 million "GI Bill for Children" represents the third version of a choice plan Mr. Bush has been unable to push through Congress since he campaigned as the "education president" in 1988.

Under the four-year pilot program, any state or locality could apply for federal funds to give each child from middle or low-income families a $1,000 annual scholarship to any lawfully operating school in the area. Part of the scholarship could be used for academic programs for children before or after school, on weekends, and during the summer.

Administration officials envision the $500 million spread among 500,000 students in several medium-sized cities. Los Angeles city schools alone, for example, have more than 400,000 students that would qualify for the money. But the program could easily pay for all qualifying students in several localities like Denver County, Colo., which has 41,000 qualifying students.

"This is the kind of bill with direct appeal to poor constituents. If you're unhappy with your kids' school, if it's dangerous and if the quality of education is poor, here's a thousand bucks, choose a new school. That has lot of appeal," says John Chubb, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the co-author of a book about choice.

"The worst of public schools will be run out of business ... so what?" he asks. …

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