The G.O.P. Platform on Education and Related Issues

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Following are education-related excerpts from "An American Vision: For Our Children, For Our Future," the Republican Party's 40,000-word platform for 1988.


Republican leadership has launched a new era in American education. Our vision of excellence has brought education back to parents, back to basics, and back on a track of excellence leading to a brighter and stronger future for America.

Because education is the key to opportunity, we must make America a nation of learners, ready to compete in the rapidly changing world of the future. Our goal is to combine traditional values and enduring truths with the most modern techniques and technology for teaching and learning.

This challenge will be immense. For two decades before 1981, poor public policies had led to an alarming decline in performance in our schools. Unfocused federal spending seemed to worsen the situation, hamstringing education with regulations and wasting resources in faddish programs top-heavy with administrative overhead.

Then President Reagan and Vice President Bush rallied our "nation at risk." The response was in the best tradition of the American people. In every state, indeed, in every community, individuals and organizations have launched a neighborhood movement for education reform. It has brought together Americans of every race and creed in a crusade for our children's future. Since 1980, average salaries for elementary and secondary teachers have increased to over $28,000, an increase of 20 percent after inflation. We can enhance this record of accomplishment by committing ourselves to these principles:

Parents have the primary right and responsibility for education. Private institutions, communities, states, and the federal government must support and stimulate that parental role. We support the right of parents to educate their children at home.

Choice and competition in education foster quality and protect consumers' rights.

Accountability and evaluation of performance at all levels of education is the key to continuing reform in education. We must reward excellence in learning, in teaching, and in administration.

Values are the core of good education. A free society needs a moral foundation for its learning. We oppose any programs in public schools which provide birth control or abortion services or referrals. Our "first line of defense" to protect our youth from contracting aids and other sexually communicable diseases, from teen pregnancy, and from illegal drug abuse must be abstinence education.

Quality in education should be available to all our children within their communities and neighborhoods. Federal policy should empower low-income families to choose quality and demand accountability in their children's schooling.

Throughout all levels of education we must initiate action to reduce the deplorable dropout rate which deprives young people of their full potential.

Federal programs must focus on students at special risk, especially those with physical disabilities or language deficits, to increase their chance at a productive future in the mainstream of American life.

Because America's future will require increasingly competent leadership in all walks of life, national policy should emphasize the need to provide our most talented students with special programs to challenge their abilities.

Based on those principles, the Republican agenda for better education looks first to home and family, then to communities and states. In states and localities, we support practical, down-to-earth reforms that have made a proven difference in actual operation:

Choice in education, especially for poor families, fosters the parental involvement that is essential for student success, and states should consider enacting voucher systems or other means of encouraging competition among public schools.

Performance testing, both for students and teachers, measures progress, assures accountability to parents and the public, and keeps standards high.

Merit pay, career ladders, or other rewards for superior teachers acknowledge our esteem for them and encourage others to follow their example of dedication to a profession that is critical to our nation's future.

Making use of volunteerism from the private sector and providing opportunity for accelerated accreditation for those with needed expertise broadens the classroom experience and encourages excellence.

Expansions of curriculum to include the teaching of the history, culture, geography and, particularly, the languages of key nations of the world is a necessity. To compete successfully throughout the world, we must acquire the ability to speak the languages of our customers.

Excellence in the teaching of geography is essential to equipping our people with the ability to capture new markets in all parts of the world.

Discipline is a prerequisite for learning. Our schools must be models of order and decorum, not jungles of drugs and violence.

On the federal level, Republicans have worked to facilitate state and local reform movements:

We kept the spotlight on the reform movement through White House leadership, and we refocused the Department of Education to recognize and foster excellence.

We enacted legislation to ensure equal access to schools for student religious groups and led Congressional efforts to restore voluntary school prayer.

We led a national crusade against illiteracy, following the example of Barbara Bush.

We put into law protection for pupils in federally funded programs, to shield students and their families from intrusive research and offensive psychological testing.

We strengthened education programs by proposing to replace federal aid to schools with direct assistance that would give choice to low-income parents.

We broke new ground in early-childhood-development programs, such as Even Start, that emphasize the involvement of parents in the learning process and address adult illiteracy and school-readiness education holistically.

We intervened in court cases to defend the right of students to learn in a safe, drug-free environment.

We will continue to advance that agenda and to expand horizons for learning, teaching, and mastering the future:

We will protect the Pledge of Allegiance in all schools as a reminder of the values which must be at the core of learning for a free society.

We will use federal programs to foster excellence, rewarding "Merit Schools" which significantly improve education for their students.

We will urge our local school districts to recognize the value of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs.

We will direct federal matching funds to promote magnet schools that turn students toward the challenges of the future rather than the failures of the past.

We will support laboratories of educational excellence in every state by refocusing federal funds for educational research.

We will increase funding for the Head Start program to help children get a fair chance at learning, right from the beginning.

We will work with local schools and the private sector to develop models for evaluating teachers and other school officials.

We will continue to support tuition tax credits for parents who choose to educate their children in private educational institutions.

We would establish a public-private partnership using the Department of Labor's Job Training Partnership Act funds to encourage youth to stay in school and graduate. The Labor Department funds would be made available to local employers and business groups to hire high-school students after school and during the summer with the requirement that they keep their grades at a "C" average or above until graduation.

In higher education, Republicans want to promote both opportunity and responsibility:

We will keep resources focused on low-income students and address the barriers that discourage minority students from entering and succeeding in institutions of higher education.

We are determined to reverse the intolerable rates of default in the guaranteed student loan program to make more money available to those who really need to borrow it.

We will keep the spotlight of public attention on the college-cost spiral--running far ahead of inflation overall--and challenge administrators to exercise more fiscal responsibility.

We will create a College Savings Bond program, with tax-exempt interest, to help families save for their children's higher education.

We will condition federal aid to postsecondary institutions upon their good faith effort to maintain safe and drug-free campuses.

We will insist that freedom of speech is not only a fundamental right, it is one of the first lines of education. This freedom should be afforded to all speakers with a minimum of harassment.

We will continue education benefits for veterans of military service and advance the principle that those who serve their country in the armed forces have first call on federal education assistance.

We will continue the Reagan-Bush policy of emphasizing vocational-technical education. A large number of jobs in our society require secondary and postsecondary vocational-technical education. Federal programs and policies must recognize and enhance vocational-technical students.

We will support educational programs in federal prisons that will allow prisoners the opportunity to become literate and to learn an employable skill. We encourage similar programs at the state level.

To compete globally, our society must prepare our children for the world of work. We cannot allow one of every eight 17-year-olds to remain functionally illiterate. We cannot allow 1 million students to drop out of high school every year, most of them without basic skills; therefore, we must teach reading, writing, and mathematics. We must re-establish their obligation to learn.

Education for the future means more than formal schooling in classrooms. About 75 percent of our current workforce will need some degree of retraining by the year 2000. More than half of all jobs we will create in the 1990's will require some education beyond high school, and much of that will be obtained outside of regular educational institutions. Unprecedented flexibility in working arrangements, career changes, and a stampede of technological advance are ushering us into an era of lifelong learning.

Therefore, we support employment training programs at all levels of government such as the Job Training Partnership Act and the recently restructured Worker Adjustment Program for dislocated workers. The placement success of these programs can be directly traced to their public/private sector partnerships and local involvement in their program development and implementation.

In the 1960's and 1970's, we learned what doesn't solve the problems of education: federal financing and regimentation of our schools. In the 1980's, we asserted what works: Parental responsibility, community support and local control, good teachers and determined administrators, and a return to the basic values and content of the Western civilization. That combination gave generations of Americans the world's greatest opportunities for learning. It can guarantee the same for future generations.

Arts and Humanities

Republicans consider the resurgence of the arts and humanities a vital part of getting back to basics in education. Our young people must acquire more than information and skills. They must learn to reason and to appreciate the intellectual achievements that express the enduring values of our civilization. To that end, we will:

Continue the Republican economic renaissance which has made possible a tremendous outpouring of support for the arts and humanities.

Support full deductibility for donations to tax-exempt cultural institutions in order to encourage the private support of arts and humanities.

Support the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Institute of Museum Services in their effort to support America's cultural institutions, artists, and scholars.

Guard against the misuse of governmental grants by those who attack or derogate any race or creed and oppose the politicization of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

While recognizing the diversity of our people, we encourage educational institutions to emphasize in the arts and humanities those ideas and cultural accomplishments that address the ethical foundations of our culture.

Science and Technology

Our nation's continuing progress depends on scientific and technological innovation. It is America's economic fountain of youth. Republicans advocate a creative partnership between government and the private sector to ensure the dynamism and creativity of scientific research and technology:

We recognize that excellence in education, and especially scientific literacy, is a precondition for progress, and that economic growth makes possible the nation's continuing advancement in scientific research. ...

Strong Communities andNeighborhoods Crime

Republicans want a free and open society for every American. That means more than economic advancement alone. It requires the safety and security of persons and their property. It demands an end to crime. ...

In addition to our enforcement activities, we encourage drug education in our schools. These programs should begin as early as the elementary-school years, before children are subjected to peer pressure to experiment with drugs, and should continue through high school. Cutting down on the demand for drugs will be of great assistance as we increase our enforcement efforts to reduce drug supply. ...


Our country's economic miracle of the last eight years has been the most successful assault on poverty in our era. Millions of families have worked their way into the mainstream of national life. The poverty rate continues to decline. However, many remain in poverty, and we pledge to help them in their struggle for self-sufficiency and independence.

For most of our country's history, helping those less fortunate was a community responsibility. Strong families pulled together, and strong communities cared for those in need. That is more than a description of the past. It is a prescription for the future, pointing the way toward real reform of today's welfare mess through these Republican principles:

...Work is an essential component of welfare reform, and education is an essential component of employability. Welfare reform must require participation in education and work, and provide day-care assistance and continued access to Medicaid during the transition to full independence.

Fathers of welfare-dependent children must be held accountable by mandating paternity determinations and requiring the participation of unemployed fathers in education and work programs.

State and local administration of edu4cation, work, and welfare programs is best for both the taxpayers and those in need.

State and local pilot programs in welfare are the cutting edge of welfare reform. States should be granted the authority by the federal government to pursue innovative programs which return teen mothers to school and welfare recipients to work. Congressional Democrats are blocking the expansion of this vital process. A Republican Congress will give the states authority to meet local needs. ...

We are committed to assisting those in need. We are equally committed to addressing the root causes of poverty. Divorce, desertion, and illegitimacy have been responsible for almost all the increase in child poverty in the last 15 years. Because strong family life is the most remarkable anti-poverty force in history, Republicans will make the reinforcement of family rights and responsibilities an essential component of public policy. Stronger enforcement of child-support laws must be an important part of that effort, along with the revision of state laws which have left many women and children vulnerable to economic distress.

Children in poverty deserve our strongest support. We are committed to safer neighborhoods and full prosecution for child abuse and exploitation. We will reach out to these children through Head Start and targeted education, basic health and nutrition assistance, local community efforts, and individual concern. But something more is required to fulfill the hope for self-sufficiency: a job in an expanding economy. The compassionate policy for children in need is the chance for families to stand on their own feet in a society filled with opportunity.

Fighting poverty means much more than distributing cash. It includes education and work programs. It means reducing illiteracy, the single greatest indicator of life-long poverty. It involves combatting crime so that the homes and earnings of the poor are secure. It includes Republican reforms in public housing, like resident management and ownership. It requires regulatory reforms to open up opportunities for those on the margins of the work force. It means streamlining adoption rules and ensuring poor parents a real say in their children's education. Above all, it means maintaining a strong, healthy economy that creates jobs.

Urban Revitalization

...Citizen choice is the key to successful government. Options in education empower parents and attract new residents. Options in public housing transform slums into real communities, bustling with enterprise and hope. [The Republican urban agenda includes:]

...Education assistance directed to low-income households instead of aid to institutions that fail to meet their needs.

...Special attention to urban residents in the national census, to ensure that cities are not shortchanged in federal representation or in federal programs based upon population.


Rural Economic Development

Republicans realize that rural communities face challenges that go beyond agricultural concerns. Rural economic development is about more than jobs; it is also about the quality of life. We are ready to address the needs of rural America with creativity and compassion:

...Education is the crucial element in ensuring that rural Americans will be in the mainstream of our national future. We must assure rural youngsters quality education and good schools.

The roads, bridges, schools, sewer and water systems, and other public works of many rural communities have deteriorated. We will ensure that those communities receive their fair share of aid under federal assistance programs. ...

Vol. 08, Issue 01

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