Presidential Panel Favors Vouchers,Tax-Credit Plan
Washington--A report by half of the members of an advisory panel on school finance appointed by President Reagan has recommended sweeping changes in the federal role in education.
The report's proposals include the enactment of tuition tax credits and education vouchers and the elimination of the Education Department.
"The over-extended and sometimes intrusive role currently taken by the federal government in the financing of education causes problems relating to constitutional authority, to equity and fairness, and to improper control over educational content," said the members of the Advisory Panel on Financing Elementary and Secondary Education in their report.
Seven of the 14 members of the panel chaired by Connaught C. Marshner, a conservative political activist here, also recommended a diminution of federal regulatory activity, enactment of the President's New Federalism program, and an increase in private-sector support for public education.
The panel, which is charged with both making its own independent report and overseeing activities of the School Finance Project (see story on page 1), was sharply divided over the recommendations. Three members abstained from voting on the report, one voted no, and three were absent when the vote was taken.
Five members of the panel, which was appointed last summer, subsequently filed a minority report in which they opposed tuition tax credits and vouchers. Tax credits "will obviously set the stage for a massive federal intrusion into private-school education," while vouchers are "a quagmire of uncertainty," the minority report said.
The Reagan-appointed group replaced a panel appointed by President Carter in 1979. The previous panelists had filed an interim report calling "with the strongest possible sense of urgency ... for a major federal commitment to school finance."
Ms. Marshner, director of the family-policy division of the Free Congress Research and Educational Foundation--an independent organization that studies politically conservative issues--said the new panel rejected the Carter panel's recommendations because "it wasn't us." The disagreements among members of the new group, she added, reflect widely varying philosophical perspectives. "We're all Republicans, but there's a sharp division between liberals, conservatives, and moderates," she said.
Speaking for the members who approved the report, she said the group believed that its "primary purpose is to advance the quality of education by returning to the principle that the level of government closest to the people is best qualified to do the work." Ms. Marshner said she was scheduled to meet with Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell late last week to discuss the report.