Has School Choice Won?
October 10, 1996
Some suggest that proponents of charter schools and private school vouchers have won the educational reform debate hands-down -- even if implementation has barely begun.
- During last Sunday's debate President Clinton said: "If a local school district in Cleveland, or anyplace else, wants to have a private school choice plan, like Milwaukee did, let them have at it."
- Observers say that the decision by the nation's top Democrat to cease arguing against private school choice signals that the argument over philosophy has ended -- and that choice proponents have won.
- However, it will take many rounds in city halls and statehouses around the country -- where the educational bureaucracy and its unions are strong -- before the shift to privatization is complete.
Choice proponents note that what Clinton says and what he does are often two different things. The president, who has benefited from millions of public school teacher unions' dollars and political support, still wants a strong federal role in education. He would keep the Department of Education with its 250 or so programs costing $31 billion. Many of those red-tape-ridden programs antedate the department's 1979 birth and all of them could outlive it.
The closing days of this congressional session turned into a bidding war to see which party could lavish more federal money on education -- with Clinton getting $1 billion more than he requested for the Education Department's fiscal 1997 budget.
Source: Chester E. Finn, Jr. (Hudson Institute), "The End of the Debate on School Choice," Wall Street Journal, October 10, 1996.
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