Freshman Rep. Tom Tancredo recently got a quick lesson in damage control when his hometown newspaper reported that he had signed a pledge to eliminate all public schools.
Four years ago, the Colorado Republican--who is now a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee--signed the mission statement of the Separation of School & State Alliance, a coalition of home schoolers, libertarians, and anti-government activists based in Fresno, Calif.
The pledge stated: "It is clear that reform of state schooling will not solve the education crisis. Therefore, we must end government compulsion in education funding, attendance, and content. Separation of school and state is essential to restore parental responsibility and create an environment of educational freedom in which students and teachers can flourish."
TheDenver Post reported his signature in a story late last month, inciting criticisms from local politicians and school officials. On Feb. 26, Mr. Tancredo released a letter to the Post, saying his intentions had been misconstrued.
He took issue with the Post's headline that he sought to "dump" public schools. "That implication is simply not true," wrote Mr. Tancredo, a former public school teacher and state legislator who also served as the Department of Education's sometimes-controversial regional representative under Presidents Reagan and Bush. "I have a strong record of supporting efforts to guarantee that every child has access to a free and quality education."
Mr. Tancredo, an advocate of government-funded vouchers, ran on a widely publicized conservative platform last fall.
Scott Gast, a spokesman for Mr. Tancredo, said his boss signed the pledge as part of his duties as the president of the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Golden, Colo. "He felt it was an effort to push the envelope" to advocate creative approaches to education reform, Mr. Gast said.
And while Mr. Tancredo is studying ways to instill more state and local control as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, he has no plans to call for abolishing public education, Mr. Gast added.
--Joetta L. Sack [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 26, Page 20Published in Print: March 10, 1999, as Federal File