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Voucher wrestling

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, R-Va., admitted recently that he had to wrestle with his decision to support vouchers for poor students in Washington earlier this year.

Mr. Davis eventually voted with his party to provide vouchers of $3,200 to students to help them attend the private or religious school of their choice, or a public school outside the beleaguered system. ("Voucher Debate Plays Out in the Capitol's Shadow," April 22, 1998.)

But Mr. Davis told attendees at an American Association of School Administrators legislative conference that he does not favor a national voucher plan. He just felt that an exception could be made for the 77,000-student Washington district.

"In the short term, it's going to take so much time to turn around...a completely dysfunctional urban school system," said Mr. Davis, who spoke on a panel discussing alternatives to vouchers.

As the chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's panel on the District of Columbia, Mr. Davis said he saw money and power being abused by incompetent school board members. "You just heard tale after tale of these people who were nothing but goofballs," he said.

Parental PAC

Former Secretary of Education and 1996 Republican presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander is campaigning to help families gain new and expanded tax breaks.

At a speech at Harvard University last month, Mr. Alexander announced the formation of his new political-action committee, dubbed "We the Parents," and his ideas for a "family-friendly tax code."

Rather than focus on child-care credits, his plan would increase tax breaks for parents with dependent children with the goal of helping them afford to spend more time at home with their children.

The PAC also endorsed an education-savings-accounts plan, vetoed by President Clinton this past summer, that would have allowed parents to save money tax-free for a wide array of educational expenses.

Mr. Alexander, who is seen as likely to enter the presidential sweepstakes again in 2000, also spoke at a recent pro-voucher conference in Washington.

There, he called on lawmakers to create a $2 billion voucher program under Title I, using $1 billion from its $8.02 billion allocation and $1 billion in new funding.

--JOETTA L. SACK [email protected]

Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 24

Published in Print: October 7, 1998, as Federal File

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