September 6, 2000
President Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has parted company with his old boss and presidential candidate Al Gore on the issue of school vouchers. Despite Clinton-Gore's adamant opposition to them, Reich says "vouchers do work."
He proposes to give children vouchers in amounts inversely related to family income, and makes these points:
- Wealthy and upper-class families can already select the best schools by buying homes near them -- in which case the "voucher" comes with the home -- or by sending their children to private schools.
- There are fewer behavioral problems in private schools because they can enforce discipline in ways public schools cannot -- since private schools can expel children who misbehave, while public schools must, by law, provide an education for all.
- Giving children from America's poorest 20 percent of families vouchers worth $10,000 to $12,000 would encourage public, private or charter schools close to poor neighborhoods to upgrade physical plants, buy new textbooks, initiate after-school programs and hire more and better teachers.
- Children from families in the next income quintile might get vouchers worth $8,000 to $10,000 -- and so forth on a sliding scale until families in the top 20 percent received vouchers worth $2,000 to $4,000 a year.
This would encourage schools in wealthier communities to seek out enough $10,000 to $12,000 voucher students in their region to meet their budgets, Reich believes.
Source: Robert B. Reich (Brandeis University), "The Case for 'Progressive' Vouchers," Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2000.
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