01/2003 The Friedman Report: School Choice Roundup

Published January 1, 2003


California: Democratic Gov. Gray Davis re-elected.

Florida: Republican Gov. Jeb Bush re-elected.

Georgia: Voters replaced Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes with charter school advocate Sonny Perdue.

Hawaii: Incoming Republican governor Linda Lingle, a voucher supporter, is expected to strengthen the state’s charter school law.

Illinois: Long succession of GOP governors ends with the election of Democrat Rod Blagojevich, a strong voucher opponent.

Maryland: Incoming Republican governor Bob Ehrlich, a voucher supporter, is expected to finally give the Old Line State a charter school law.

Massachusetts: Republican Mitt Romney elected governor.

Michigan: Voters opted for Democrat Jennifer Granholm, an active opponent of charter schools and school choice, over Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumous, a strong advocate of school vouchers.

New Hampshire: Republican businessman Craig Benson elected governor.

South Carolina: Voters replaced Gov. Jim Hodges with pro-school choice Republican Mark Sanford.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Edward G. Rendell, who opposes vouchers and charter schools, beat Republican Mike Fisher.

Tennessee: Democrat Phil Bredesen elected governor.

Vermont: Republican Jim Douglas, vowing to spend smarter, beat Democrat Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, who called for increased education spending.

Wisconsin: Republican incumbent Gov. Scott McCallum, supporter of the Milwaukee voucher program, lost to Democrat Jim Doyle, opponent of the program.
November 21, 2002

District of Columbia * Florida * New Jersey
South Carolina * Texas * Washington


Action Urged on Vouchers for DC Students

The Supreme Court’s Zelman v. Simmons-Harris decision gave Republicans the permission to implement school vouchers; the change in the political landscape after last November’s mid-term elections gave Republicans the power to implement school vouchers; but how can Republicans show they now have the will to implement school vouchers?

President George W. Bush could “set off a chain reaction of voucher programs in other cities” with a voucher program for children in the nation’s capital, suggested Sol Stern in City Journal.

“Come January, the president should stand on the steps of one of Washington’s worst schools–and there are all too many to choose from–and issue a declaration of conscience that never again will poor black kids in the nation’s capital be forced to attend a school that dooms them to failure,” said Stern.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors echoed Stern’s proposal, saying the President now had an opportunity to change the nation’s capital from a place that is “condemning tens of thousands of nine- and 10-year-olds to a life of second-class citizenship” into “a showcase for full school choice.” While education is largely a local issue, the Journal‘s editors pointed out the federal government has oversight responsibility for the federal city.

Congress approved voucher legislation for Washington in 1997, when it was withdrawn after President Bill Clinton threatened a veto, and again in 1998, when Clinton vetoed the measure. The Clintons chose not to enroll their own child in the city’s schools but instead enrolled her in a private school.
City Journal–November 21, 2002
Wall Street Journal–December 2, 2002


Vouchers Could Reduce Class Size

If it costs the state of Florida $13,000 to $19,000 per student to create the space to put a student in a public school, and $3,000 to $4,000 to put a student in a private school, which is the better deal for the taxpayers of the Sunshine State?

That’s no longer an academic question in Florida, because voters left it up to lawmakers to figure out how to implement a constitutional amendment to reduce class size they approved last November. With first-year costs alone conservatively estimated at $1.1 billion and the state facing a potential $4 billion deficit, implementation won’t be easy.

Rep. Stan Jordan (R-Jacksonville), who served for 16 years on the Duval County School Board, wants to offer vouchers to students in any school district that can’t meet the class-size mandate “within the student’s established attendance zone.” The vouchers, which would be available only to students enrolled in public school for at least a year, would be worth 60 percent of the average per-student cost, or about $3,200.

Jordan’s proposal, which he plans to introduce as the Constitutional Compliance Assistance Act, found support from House Speaker Designate Johnnie Byrd (R-Plant City) and from Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a conservative budget watchdog group.

“Vouchers are not only attractive financially, they’re practical,” Calabro told the Palm Beach Post. “You cannot raise taxes today and build the facilities in time to meet the obligation.”
Palm Beach Post
November 15, 2002


Voucher Push Continues

School choice advocates at Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) have vowed to continue their push for vouchers in New Jersey even though Governor James E. McGreevey opposes them and there is no voucher bill for the state legislature to consider.

Speaking at E3’s second annual conference in November, the Rev. Reginald Jackson, director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, stressed support for school choice didn’t mean they had “given up on the public schools.” But, he said, public schools would not reform until parents had choices.

“We know they won’t get better until they have some competition,” explained Jackson.
November 20, 2002


Elected on a platform of change to become the first Republican Governor in South Carolina with a Republican-controlled legislature, Mark Sanford has called for a major restructuring of government in the Palmetto State, including changes to the choices available to parents in K-12 education. Among Sanford’s education proposals are the following:

  • Establish mandatory school choice within districts and voluntary choice between districts.
  • Change the state’s charter school law to remove the racial quota provision, allow multiple charter school sponsors, and give charter schools fiscal autonomy.
  • Facilitate homeschooling.
  • Award state grants of up to $3,550 a year to families with children in private schools, under certain circumstances.

The Greenville News
November 17, 2002


Voucher Revival Likely with GOP Control

When the Texas legislature convenes this month, it will have a political constellation unseen for more than a hundred years, with Republicans in charge in the Governor’s mansion, in the House, and in the Senate–Gov. Rick Perry, Speaker-elect Tom Craddick, and Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst respectively.

Since all three are on record as supporting a pilot voucher program, that gives hope to a Democrat from Houston, Rep. Ron Wilson, that the pilot voucher bill he has introduced in past sessions will finally win passage.

Wilson sees vouchers as a way for inner-city students to get out of ineffective public schools. That kind of pilot program is supported by Texans by a margin of 47 percent to 44 percent, according to a Scripps Howard Texas Poll of 1,000 adult Texans conducted last October. In a 1999 poll, support was slightly lower at 45 percent.

“Among African-Americans in prison, you’ll find that most of them never completed their high school education,” Wilson told the Austin American-Statesman. “I know that we have to break the cycle and the best way to do that is by educating our children. Right now, the public schools aren’t doing that.”

But even with a favorable political constellation, vouchers aren’t a sure thing, warn the editors of the American- Statesman. Wilson plans to reintroduce a bill he and Mike Krusee (R-Williamson County) introduced last year and is allying with other voucher supporters, such as Glenn Lewis (D-Fort Worth) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington). But the Democratic majority’s opposition to vouchers has found receptive ears among rural Republicans concerned about the loss of public school jobs and tax revenue that vouchers might bring.
Houston Chronicle–November 15, 2002
Austin American-Statesman–November 24, 2002


Charter School Prospects Improve

Although Washington Governor Gary Locke supports charter schools and charter bills have passed the Democratic-controlled House four times, the Democrat in charge of the Senate Education Committee has always refused to give any charter bill a hearing. With Republicans gaining control of the Senate in the November elections, that obstacle to passage of charter school legislation has been removed.
Education Excellence Coalition