Federal File

July 11, 2001 1 min read
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Quid Pro Quotes

“Is Congress owned by teacher unions?”

The answer to that loaded question, according to Choices for Children, a pro-voucher group in Grand Rapids, Mich., that used it to headline a recent press release, is, not surprisingly, yes.

“The teacher unions have pumped over $10 million into our Congress in the past seven years and gotten complete obedience for it,” the group’s chairwoman, Betsy DeVos, contended in the June 21 release. An accompanying study seeks to connect the dots between votes related to private school choice—mostly vouchers—and Federal Elections Commission data on campaign contributions.

But while Congress has rejected vouchers the past several years, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have not always gotten their way, even on school choice. Another measure Choices for Children included in its analysis— allowing tax-free savings for private school tuition, among other expenses—was approved by Congress this spring over union opposition.

The report sees a “nearly direct correlation” between union donations and votes on “educational choice.” For example, union donations were 10 times more likely to flow to senators who opposed private-school-choice, the report says.

Rebecca Fleischauer, an NEA spokeswoman, said union largess does not explain Congress’ rejection of vouchers. Congress said no, she said, because the public would rather put tax dollars into public schools, and vouchers do not increase student achievement.

Matter of Principals

Dan Quayle, take heart.

Whoever addressed the envelopes for a recent, Department of Education mailing to school principals across the country would never survive the first round of a spelling bee.

The outside of the mass-mailed, brown envelopes—a reminder to celebrate Memorial Day—said in capital letters: “ATTENTION: PRINCIPLE.”

—Erik Robelen and Alan Richard

A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2001 edition of Education Week


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