NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bush And Education

September 29, 1999

Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush is running as the education candidate, and points to his record state's record since his election in 1994. Test scores have risen, and the score gap between white students and black and Latino students has narrowed.

Some observers, however, note Bush's record on education isn't quite as impressive as it may appear at first glance.

  • Texas tests measure a bare minimum of skills, and have gotten progressively easier since 1994; progress hasn't been as good on harder tests.
  • More Texas students scored "proficient" on the National Assessment of Education Progress in 1998 than in 1994 -- but compared with 1992 the average statewide score isn't much different.
  • Compared with his peers in 41 other states taking the reading test, the average Texas 8th grader ranked 30th.

However, observers credit Bush's education policy for a less tangible result: changing the culture of expectations for poor and minority students. He has also strengthened the accountability system, established a new early literacy program, and strongly backed charter schools, of which the state has 168 (although his support for vouchers has been softer).

Bush has already made several proposals for education reform on the national level.

  • Require federal programs to measure their impact on student achievement -- which isn't done now -- and replace those that don't work.
  • Overhaul the $4.4 billion early childhood Head Start program to focus on literacy and a "proven core curriculum."
  • Give schools that receive some of the $7.7 billion Title I funding -- designed to improve poor children's performance -- three years to show progress in test scores.
  • If that doesn't work, states can take over Title I schools, restructure them, or switch them to a school choice program; if that doesn't work, students could transfer or get $1,500 to attend another school or receive tutoring.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Is Bush The Education Governor?" Investor's Business Daily, September 29, 1999.


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