NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bush Voucher Plan Is Too Small, Not Too Big

December 29, 2000

Some critics are advising President-elect George W. Bush to back down from his pledge to include school vouchers in his coming education package rather than risk losing bipartisan support. However, others say Bush will blow his chances, not by insisting on vouchers, but by offering a voucher plan too small to make any political or educational difference.

  • During the campaign, Bush said if bad schools didn't improve on state tests three years in a row, they should see their federal and some related state cash given directly to parents in $1,500 allotments to use as they wish.
  • However, critics contend that's too little to spur the investment in new school capacity that free-market voucher backers say they want.
  • In Los Angeles, for example, where about $8,500 is spent per pupil, a $6,000 voucher would be needed to encourage a "supply response" through which entrepreneurs make start-up investments in new facilities and equipment.

Proponents of a big voucher system argue Bush's plan is little more than tokenism: small enough that teachers' unions assume they can squash it in the future; not all-encompassing enough to make minority leaders split ranks with union allies and back the plan; and merely a moral victory for Republicans, but not one so far-reaching it would unsettle suburban GOP voters who might worry a massive voucher program would eventually send black urban kids their way.

To think small, critics argue, means telling 10 million languishing urban school kids to wait 20 years for tiny programs to ramp up and reach them.

Source: Matthew Miller (Annenberg Public Policy Center), "Bush Voucher Plan Is Too Timid, Not Too Bold," Dallas Morning News, December 29, 2000.


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