- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

When the Supreme Court ruled that the Cleveland school-voucher program was "neutral in all respects toward religion," the justices settled, at least for now, a very important church-state question. But the high court's decision hardly quelled the debate regarding voucher programs.
The National PTA, which boasts a membership of nearly 6.5 million, vowed to continue its "unequivocal opposition" to vouchers. Unions, which oppose voucher programs for the same reason they oppose other school-choice options, because they create competition, have said the fight is on. The Al Gores and Teddy Kennedys strident voucher opponents who know that voucher programs rightly target impoverished children who otherwise wouldn't dream of attending, say, St. Albans or Georgetown Day are ready to duke it out as well. (And you can bet those schools' alumni and administrations are, too.)
It could prove to be an interesting battle. Most blacks and Hispanics support vouchers for the very reasons that silver-spooned liberals oppose them. In a triumph of self-interest over political philosopy, 47 percent of House members and 51 percent of senators sent their school-age children to private schools last year, compared with 10 percent of the general population, according to a survey by the Heritage Foundation. As President Bush said Monday, Americans "will not accept one education system for those who can afford to send their children to a school of their choice and [another] for those who can't."
The Supreme Court's June 27 ruling, the most significant regarding public education since the 1954 decision on school desegregation, redrew battle lines. Whereas the "v" word vanished quickly from discussions on Capitol Hill and in the White House fairly early on in 2001, Mr. Bush is again urging Congress to approve tax credits for parents who choose to take their children out of violent and failing public schools. Moreover, House Majority Leader Dick Armey has introduced legislation that would provide vouchers for up to 8,300 poor D.C. families.
The Supreme Court ruling means that the school-reform debate has risen to a different level. "We will continue to fight for public schools and against vouchers or related schemes to provide public funds to private and religious schools at the ballot box, in state legislatures and in state courts. We will continue this fight in allegiance with the vast majority of American parents who want good schools in their communities. And we will continue this fight with the best interests of children foremost in our minds." That's Bob Chase, head of the National Education Association (NEA), the leader of the deep-pocketed status quo. Indeed, parents "want good schools in their communities" but parents are tired of waiting for the "good" schools to come to their perhaps not-so-good neighborhood. Instead, they want to do like Al Gore Sr. and Joe Kennedy Sr. did and send their children to the good school. Mr. Chase and the others should get out of their way.

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