- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

George W. Bush called freedom America's best export to the world in a speech given to 2,000 home schoolers and their parents last year. Indeed, it is a powerful tool when placed in the hands of informed parents who want to provide alternatives to their children's failing schools. Mr. Bush commended the home schooling community for its success and vowed to respect and defend its education efforts in the future. Now, almost one year later, home schoolers are still stunning the country with their academic success. For the third year in a row, according to data released this week by college entrance exam officials at ACT, home schoolers outscored their peers in traditional schools, this time by almost two points.

Mr. Bush hasn't let his fervor for freedom of choice in education wane during that time either. While home schoolers were busy studying for the ACTs, the Texas governor was crafting an education proposal which would empower all American families and give the home schooling community support it has not experienced under other administrations:

m He would expand education savings accounts to allow any family or individuals with incomes up to $150,000 (single workers with annual incomes of up to $95,000) to contribute up to $5,000 a year per child to an education savings account. Current limits are only $500 a year for such accounts. The funds could be withdrawn without paying taxes on any interest earned in the accounts and used for educational purposes from kindergarten to postgraduate. This would benefit families practicing school choice because it could be used in public, private, religious or home schools. The Clinton/Gore administration has not supported such ventures. This year President Clinton even vetoed the Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999, which would have only increased the savings account annual contribution limit to $2,000.

m Mr. Bush has also proposed $1,500 scholarships for those in failing schools to go to a private school of their choice. Vice President Gore has vowed to fight vouchers and proposes to continue injecting failing public schools and programs with more money.

• Mr. Bush would guarantee $3 billion in loans to build 2,000 charter schools in two years. Mr. Gore believes using taxpayers' money to go anywhere other than public schools, even if the taxpayers do not want it to go there, is wrong.

If Mr. Bush didn't have such a strong record of success with education reform, such proposals could possibly be discounted by the Gore team as campaign rhetoric. But the fact that the governor has been quietly reforming the second largest state in the country for six years doesn't leave much room for criticism. The Home School Legal Defense Fund rated Texas the No. 1 state for home schooling; the governor has also helped narrow the achievement gap between minority students and their peers.

As president, he has pledged to provide the support parents need for their children's education without allowing his shadow to get in the way. In a letter this March to the Christian Home Educators of Colorado, he reminded parents of his record and his vision for alternative education in the future: "In Texas, we view home schooling as something to be respected and protected. Respected for the energy and commitment of parents. Protected from the interference of government," he wrote. "If I am fortunate to be elected president, I will push for parents everywhere to have more choice and be able to play a larger role in the education of their children."

Give Mr. Bush an "A" for his efforts to allow home schoolers a chance to improve on their already strong educational performance.

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