- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Congress resumes deliberations this week on President Bushs education initiative, and it seems lawmakers again must be reminded why parents are insisting on vouchers, and why states and local school districts are urging Congress to give them more flexibility to spend federal grant monies. Throwing money at the problem simply has not done anyone any good.
In school year 1999-2000, education expenditures were at an all-time high of $647 billion. Even so, Mr. Bush proposed an 11.5 percent increase in the budget for the U.S. Department of Education, the largest increase for any agency. Unions and liberals, nonetheless, claim this is not enough to decrease class sizes, increase per-pupil spending and provide troubled schools enough money to turn themselves around. Yet specifically targeting dollars in those directions has yet to produce the desired results. Class sizes, for example, have steadily declined since 1970, when the average pupil-teacher ratio in elementary schools was 24-1. Today it is 18-1. Also, while the majority of public schoolhouses are operating under capacity, only one in five is overcrowded.
As for per-pupil spending in public schools, the dollars keep rising, but positive results remain elusive. In fact, when you look at embarrassingly rankings and low test scores it becomes crystal clear that merely spending more on one-size-fits-all public schooling is part of the problem. According to the results of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 63 percent of black children and 58 percent of Hispanics read below basic level. On the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, Americas high-school seniors beat only Cyprus and South Africa, falling into 19th place out of 21 nations. Similarly, it is no surprise that achievement gaps between black and white students are wider while the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National PTA and practically every liberal in Congress say woe is the little black child. The Heritage Foundation says the achievement gap between white and African-American 13-year-olds in reading has widened from 18 points in 1988 to 29 points in 1999. The disparity in test scores of 17-year-olds has widened from 20 points in 1988 to 31 points in 1999. As you might expect, this places an incredible and costly burden on Americas colleges and universities, which, as a result of those low standings, must spend precious tax dollars to offer remedial courses for ill-prepared freshmen.
If those facts are not enough to encourage the Democrats to rally around vouchers and flexible spending, there are still more. A 1999 study by the liberal Joint Center for Political Studies shows that 60 percent of black Americans support vouchers, and a majority of the general population, 53 percent, does as well. In New York City alone, according to a survey last year by Hunter College, a whopping 87 percent of Hispanics, 86 percent of Asians and 83 percent of blacks support vouchers to allow children to attend private schools. Consider, as well, the price tags on public vs. private. Per-pupil expenditures for public schools were more than double the average tuition for private schools, according to a 1996 study by the Cato Institute $3,116 vs. $6,857. All of which is a cruel hoax on every red-blooded American taxpayer. Worse, it is an unconscionable trick to play on children.


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