Friday, April 01, 2005

Big Government Republicans (It used to be an oxymoron)

I seldom agree with Richard Reeves. But I must admit, I think this is one column that seems pretty close to reality.

Republicans today believe in big government just as much as big government Democrats. The only difference is what they want to do when they have the bully pulpit. It's all about getting the power and then staying in power.

Under NCLB, Big Government Right and Big Government Left came together on the topic of education. BG Left wanted more money for education and BG Right wanted to see the demise of public education. BG Right was willing to "invest" in it to do so, and wait it out. BG Left decided to take the money and run. I assume they thought they could bring logical accountability standards to the table during future reauthorizations of the NCLB Act. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, as time goes's less local control at every level, on every single issue.

My prediction? A backlash from the left and right is coming as we grow to resent big government's influence over our lives.


At Sunday, April 03, 2005, Anonymous Voucher advocate said...

School Choice Nirvana
April 1, 2005; Wall St. Journal Page A10

Arizona has long been in the forefront of education reform. A decade ago it introduced open enrollment, which lets parents place children in the public school of their choice. Charter schools were approved in 1994 and today the state has 516, the highest number in the nation after the 525 in far larger California. A tuition tax credit enacted in 1997 allows individuals to deduct contributions to scholarships for needy children to attend private schools.

Now the Grand Canyon State is bidding to become the first to offer a "universal" voucher -- that is, a grant that any child would be able to use at any private school in the state. School vouchers already exist in limited form (mostly for low-income children) in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida, Maine and Vermont. Arizona's voucher would be the first available without restrictions to parents of all school-age children.

A universal voucher bill passed the state Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives. The legislation would offer vouchers of $3,500 a year for elementary school children and $4,500 for high schoolers. The average cost of educating a child in the public schools is $8,500 to $8,900. "I think parents should have the choice of how to educate their children," says GOP Representative Andy Biggs, sponsor of the House bill. Universal vouchers are "just the next logical step" for school choice in Arizona.

The bill passed the Senate 16-12, with one Democrat in favor. The House vote, which could come as early as Monday, is expected to be even closer and so far no Democrats have expressed support. Thirty-one votes are needed for passage and Mr. Biggs says he has 30.

Unfortunately, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano is no fan of school choice. This week she vetoed a bill that would have extended the tuition tax credit to business. Companies would have received a tax credit of up to $10,000 for contributions to scholarship funds. Some 29,000 Arizona children attend private schools on scholarships and the waiting list for these private vouchers is long.

The governor has promised to review the literature on vouchers before reaching a veto decision on the "universal" bill, but she also has been quoted as saying, "To date, I have not yet heard anything to persuade me that [vouchers] improve the quality of education." Someone should send her the work of Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby, who has found that traditional public schools improve when forced to compete with vouchers and charter schools.

Should the universal-voucher bill fail to become law, a more limited version is waiting in the wings. That bill, which has already passed a House committee, would offer vouchers only to children with special needs -- kids with disabilities, those who have failed state proficiency tests, and children who don't speak English. "The state education establishment is always saying vouchers siphon off the easy to educate," says Matt Ladner of the Alliance for School Choice in Phoenix. "This would call their bluff."

Whatever the outcome this year, that vouchers can come this close to passing statewide is a sign of political progress. With their long experience with public-school choice and private scholarships, Arizona voters have been able to see past the scare tactics of those who claim that vouchers will ruin public schools. In fact, letting taxpayer money follow each student to the school of his choice is the best way to rescue American public education.

At Monday, April 04, 2005, Blogger Joe Thomas said...

Vouchers in any shape or form will not pass in Arizona this year. The governor is staunchly against them. She sees them as both unconstitutional and wrong. She is correct on both judgements.

The conservatives are trying to use expansion of optional full-day kindergarten (which was already approved) as a bargaining chip for vouchers for their wealthy supporters. So far the governor is content to watch them reveal their real intent to their constituents.

The fact that the more heavily-Republican AZ House cannot even get a 31st vote (for over a week now) shows that even Republicans are coming to see that vouchers do nothing to solve the issues facing education.

Andy Biggs is not a major player in the Legislature. He's one of my reps and has been there for a few terms, but people do not give him a great deal of respect. They do not ridicule him, either.

I hate to burst your bubble, VA, but it isn't going to happen in Arizona.

At Tuesday, April 05, 2005, Anonymous voucher advocate said...

Give it time...vouchers will come only because public schools can not maintain their hegemony indefinitely.

History shows a monopolistic bureaucracy dictated by unions and paid for by the taxes of public serfdom can not survive forever.

Maybe not Arizona this year, but it will come...the serfs are slowly revolting.


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