- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AP asked the following question of all the Democratic candidates:

SCHOOL VOUCHERS — Do you support allowing parents in areas that are poor or with bad schools to use tax money to help send their children to private schools?

• Wesley Clark: “I oppose all measures that would weaken our public school system, including school vouchers. I believe that the best way to educate our children is by strengthening the public school system, not taking resources away from them.”

• Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean: “Vouchers undermine public education, a cornerstone of our democracy. I oppose all public funding of private school tuition, including demonstration programs like the one President Bush is foisting on Washington, D.C., and the one Governor [Jeb] Bush has instituted in Florida, since they siphon badly needed resources from our public schools.”

• Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina: “Today, America has two school systems — one for the affluent and one for everyone else. I am committed to giving every child a great education — by investing in excellent teachers for public schools, by fixing and funding No Child Left Behind, and by taking a range of other steps. Private-school vouchers won’t help our public schools, but will instead drain limited resources from those schools. I oppose vouchers.”

• Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts: “I have never supported vouchers. I understand why parents want more choices and I believe they should have more choices in public schools. But public schools need resources and support, and vouchers drain them of both. Our inner-city schools and our rural schools need better buildings, more textbooks, higher-paid teachers, the best principals and smaller classes. They also need the strongest-possible support they can get from the president of the United States.”

• Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio: “No. Sending a few kids somewhere else at the public’s expense and leaving the other children in a crumbling school even shorter on funds than before is no solution at all. Vouchers divert public money away from the vast majority of public school students. In most cases, these are the students who need it the most. As president, I will lead in the fight to improve public schools, and oppose alternatives that divert attention, energy and resources from efforts to reduce class size, enhance teacher quality, and provide every student with books, computers, and safe and orderly schools.”

• Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut: “I support private-school voucher experiments that do not take away money from public schools, include full evaluations, and are targeted to help low-income students trapped in bad schools. It’s one way to help improve opportunities for low-income students immediately while we do the long, hard work of lifting up our public schools.”

• The Rev. Al Sharpton: “No, I think that the moneys ought to be applied to public schools and not any form of privatization, and I consider vouchers part of a gradual step toward privatization.”

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