McCain on Vouchers: Accountability for All?

February 19, 2008 1 min read

I trolled through the Internet and dialed up a bunch of Arizona sources to find out as much as I could about Sen. John McCain’s background on K-12 education. Read what I found at McCain Emphasizes School Choice, Accountability, But Lacks Specifics.

You have to dig through the Republican front-runner’s campaign site to find his ideas on education. Even though the site doesn’t explain exactly what McCain would do as president, it’s clear that McCain believes in choice and accountability. McCain tried for years to get a national pilot program for private school choice. In 2004, Congress created one such project in the District of Columbia. Back in 2001, he spoke in favor of NCLB on the Senate floor, saying he liked its accountability measures and was disappointed that it didn’t include enough choice.

On the campaign trail, he has called NCLB “a good beginning” in a YouTube video I posted last week. In the video below, he says of NCLB: “Improve it; don’t discard it.”

But he doesn’t say how he would hold schools accountable in private school choice programs. Many choice advocates suggest that parents’ decision to enroll a child is the ultimate accountability. But NCLB raises the question of whether that’s enough accountability, as Tom Toch of Education Sector points out.

“The logic of NCLB is that all schools that are using public money should be held accountable,” Toch told me. “He’s going to come to terms with the fact that the central element of school reform right now is to hold schools receiving public money accountable for their performance.”

That quote appears at the bottom of the story. This presidential campaign has been lacking a serious education debate so far. Sen. Barack Obama’s statement on vouchers last week may mean vouchers will be part of the debate as the campaign moves forward. If so, perhaps McCain will have to respond to Toch’s point.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.