Published Online: September 13, 2000
Published in Print: September 13, 2000, as Federal File

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Reich on Vouchers

Former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich weighed in last week with a provocative concept that blends Democratic advocacy of much greater spending on education with a Republican-style call for school choice. He calls the idea "progressive" vouchers.

Estelle Matthis

In a Sept. 6 editorial-page piece for The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Reich argues that the "biggest emerging battle" in education is between those who support private school choice and those who want more money for schools.

"The only way to begin to decouple poor kids from lousy schools is to give poor kids additional resources, along with vouchers enabling them and their parents to choose how to use them," writes Mr. Reich, who served in President Clinton's Cabinet from 1993 to 1997.

He suggests providing vouchers to all students' families on a sliding scale, with poor families receiving vouchers worth the most money—up to $10,000 to $12,000 for the poorest 20 percent. The aid could be used at any qualified public, charter, or private school.

In an interview last week, Mr. Reich said this was the first time he had put the idea into writing. The opinion piece was timed to coincide with the campaign season, when "the public's attention is more focused on public issues," said Mr. Reich, currently a professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, has proposed creating vouchers for students in failing schools and raising federal education spending by about $47 billion over 10 years. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, has called for significantly more spending—an extra $115 billion over 10 years—while strongly opposing vouchers.

Mr. Reich acknowledges in his essay that progressive vouchers are a "long shot."

- Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 20, Issue 2, Page 31

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