State Journal

September 24, 1997 1 min read

Out and about

Gov. Arne Carlson was making the rounds in a different capital this month to tout Minnesota’s new school choice initiatives as the most significant education reforms in the state’s history.

Mr. Carlson visited Washington at the invitation of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who praised the moderate GOP governor as “the best example yet that the school choice movement is thriving and has broad support beyond the conservative wing of our party.”

Minnesota’s recent K-12 education measure contains a new, refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 for families with incomes of $33,500 and below. The money can be used for educational purposes, such as the purchase of computers and tutoring, although not for private school tuition. Lawmakers also expanded--to as much as $2,500 per child--an existing tax deduction for private school tuition.

During three busy days Sept. 9-11, Mr. Carlson presented the details of the legislation to members of Congress, policymakers, and the national news media. He devised the successful tax policies after failing to push a voucher bill through the legislature.

Gov. Arne Carlson

The tour kicked off with a breakfast for national columnists hosted by Mr. Armey. Then Mr. Carlson headed to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, for a speech introduced by William Bennett, a former U.S. secretary of education. After an appearance on a talk-radio program hosted by Mary Matalin, a former top GOP political strategist, the governor attended a briefing with the House’s Republican leadership.

As the featured speaker at the National Press Club’s “morning newsmaker” breakfast, Mr. Carlson said he wished the Minnesota model could be adopted nationwide. “If I were God,” he told the audience, “I’d just take that Minnesota plan, I’d multiply those tax deductions by a factor of two or three, and put it in place in the federal tax code.”

Sandra Feldman, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, went head to head with Mr. Carlson on a C-SPAN call-in program, arguing that channeling public money to private schools was a diversion that wouldn’t fix the problems of public schools.

But the governor insisted that school competition would boost achievement.