On Tuesday, four GOP lawmakers--two from the Senate (Lamar Alexander and John Ensign) and two from the House (Howard McKeon and Sam Johnson)--proposed legislation to spend $100 million on vouchers for low-income students in chronically failing schools across the nation. The idea, called America's Opportunity Scholarships for Kids, is modeled on the Washington, D.C. voucher pilot program. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings offered support for the proposal and pointedly defended it against critics who cited a recent DOE report showing student achievement in public and private schools to be similar (see here). NCLB promised "choice" to students in failing schools, but because big urban districts often have little space in their high-performing public schools, that promise has gone unmet. National vouchers that include private school choice are a fine idea. This proposal is severely limited, though--states and districts must apply for dollars, so parental choice remains at the mercy of state/distict. Nonetheless, it's a good start. We'll be watching what happens.
"Back to School," New York Sun, July 20, 2006
"GOP Unveils School Voucher Plan," by Lois Romano, Washington Post, July 19, 2006