Education reform plan controversial

Frank Costanzo

For much of his first week in office, President George W. Bush concentrated on building support for his education reform plan, the first bill he will send to Congress.
Education has become, without question, one of Bush’s top priorities after having made it an essential part of his campaign. But accomplishing anything with a narrowly divided House and 50-50 Senate will be difficult, particularly coming to a consensus on the issue of school vouchers.
Bush’s voucher plan would give $1,500 to the parents of students in schools that have failed three consecutive years. This aide would then be used to either send the child to private school or pay for tutors and after-school programs. Successful schools would be rewarded through additional federal funds while failing schools would experience cutbacks. This portion of the plan has sparked a serious debate in Washington and may well determine the fate of the bill.
Proponents contend that such a method would empower parents by provide them with other options and force failing schools to implement new lesson plans. The plan requires that every student between the third and eighth grade get tested annually in math and reading. States and districts would have the responsibility of making the tests and standards.
But many opponents argue that vouchers would drain necessary funding for public school systems. In addition, they believe education tax dollars should not be spent by parents but by state and federal government. Since much of the voucher aide would go to private and parochial schools, the issue of separation of church and state has become a concern as well.
While on the campaign trail, Bush pledged to spend more than $47 million on education. But with such a controversial element included in his education bill, bipartisan cooperation and passage will be difficult.