Election Notebook

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McCain Pitches Plan To Cut Subsidies, Fund Vouchers

Shortly after officially announcing his 2000 presidential bid last week, Sen. John McCain of Arizona called for a national, federally funded voucher program--and challenged his opponents for the GOP nomination to support his plan. In a Sept. 28 speech to a South Carolina veterans' group, the outspoken Republican proposed a three-year pilot program that would end about $5.4 billion in corporate-tax breaks and subsidies and use the new revenues to support a voucher program for three years.

Each state would receive money based on the number of students in its public schools and be granted leeway to create plans to target vouchers to the neediest students.

The program would largely be paid for by cutting federal subsidies and closing tax loopholes for oil, gas, ethanol, and sugar production. Mr. McCain has made calls for such cuts a centerpiece of his campaign.

"Our children deserve the best education that we can make available to them, whether that learning takes place in a public, private, or parochial school," he said in his speech.

Five Republican presidential candidates and one independent hopeful accepted an invitation to speak at a recent home schoolers' convention in Washington. Each promised to support the growing movement.

GOP candidates Gary Bauer, Patrick J. Buchanan, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, and Alan Keyes addressed members of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which gathered at the Daughters of the American Revolution auditorium late last month. Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire, a former Republican now running as an Independent, also gave remarks.

The candidates' messages were generally the same: The federal government should keep out of home schoolers' business.

"We view home schooling as something to be respected and something to be protected," Mr. Bush, the governor of Texas, told the estimated 2,000 parents and advocates in attendance.

"There was a lot of 'We'll be your friend,' " said Richard Jefferson, a spokesman for the Purcellville, Va.-based association.

The group had invited all the major partisan and independent candidates. Neither Democratic candidate--Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley--attended.

The two-day event was planned to "thank members of Congress for leaving us alone," Mr. Jefferson said. His group estimates that more than 1.5 million children are currently being home-schooled.

--Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 19, Issue 6, Page 30

Published in Print: October 6, 1999, as Election Notebook
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