No Matter Who Wins, the Game Will Change

By Dervarics, Charles | Black Issues in Higher Education, October 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

No Matter Who Wins, the Game Will Change


Dervarics, Charles, Black Issues in Higher Education


Voters may lack enthusiasm for the 1996

election, pollsters and pundits say but a quick

check of presidential and congressional

races finds education advocates with plenty

of reasons to watch--and worry--in the

months ahead.

Not only is control of the White House at

stake, but also control of Congress,

where retirements already will change the makeup

of committees that will reauthorize financial aid

and other programs under the Higher Education

Act (HEA) next year. The future of the Education

Department (ED), student aid, and affirmative

action also are on the front burner for those

claiming victory on Nov. 5.

The election pits different education

philosophies against each other, many analysts

say. Republicans want more local control, fewer

rules; and greater school choice. Democrats talk

of more federal funds while still balancing the budget.

The Presidential Race Sets the Tone

The tone of the national campaign comes not

from Congress, but from the top of the ticket.

Both President Clinton and Republican

presidential nominee Robert Dole are talking about

education, but they

rarely agree on the details.

Clinton's platform includes scholarships for

high-achieving students, college tuition tax credits,

and policies to make a community college

education open to every American. Dole is

focusing more on elementary and secondary

education, taking aim at teachers unions as

enemies of reform. He also talks about school

choice and vouchers to help low-income children

attend private schools.

The Republican platform calls for the

elimination of ED, despite polls showing strong

public support for the department. While Dole

also favors termination, GOP lawmakers

acknowledge they need a credible alternative--other

than just elimination--if they want to win

public support. They say that their problem with

ED is merely one of accountability.

Although Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio),

chairman of the House Budget Committee, stated

that eliminating ED "remains a

stated goal of our

party," Rep. William

Goodling (R-Pa.)

and others spoke

of the need to devise

an alternative to

what they consider

an overly

bureaucratic

department--something

that shows they

support ED's goals,

if not its

bureaucracy.

"It is not good enough to simply throw r I money

at programs with the word `education' in them," said

Goodling who chairs the House Economic and

Educational Opportunity Committee. "We must

spend money wisely on the programs that support

quality results."

But there is skepticism from the other side of the

aisle.

"The Republican Congress has shown what it

wants to do to the Education Department,"

said Rep. Cleo Fields (D-La.), a Congressional Black

Caucus (CBC) member who

helped establish Congress's new

Education Caucus this year, but is not running

for reelection.

The long-debated voucher issue hits a

surprisingly responsive chord among some

more voters, including African Americans. About

48 percent of African Americans favor vouchers

in a recent poll. That is higher than the 43-percent

support among the general

population, according to the Joint Center

for Political and Economic Studies, a

study group that focuses on issues affecting

African Americans. But the voucher

issue is not expected to fill voting booths

with African Americans who support Dole. …

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