News from the Presidential Race

Published September 1, 1999

McCain Offers Voucher Amendment

In a surprise move during Senate debate on the GOP tax bill, presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R_Arizona) offered an amendment to create a national school choice demonstration project for children from low_income families. The $5.4 billion three_year program would provide over 1 million children–about 2 percent of all K-12 students–with vouchers of $2,000 each year to attend any school of their choice, including religious schools.

McCain’s proposal was defeated 87-13 on a point of order vote on July 30. The following senators supported a motion to waive the point of order, in effect expressing their desire to see McCain’s proposal receive a vote in the Senate: Allard (R_Colorado), Biden (D_Delaware), DeWine (R_Ohio), Gregg (R_New Hampshire), Hutchinson (R_Arkansas), Kyl (R_Arizona), Lieberman (D_Connecticut), McCain (R_Arizona), Moynihan (D_New York), Santorum (R_Pennsylvania), Shelby (R_Alabama), Specter (R_Pennsylvania), and Thompson (R_Tennessee).

Gore Wants Bigger ESAs–But Not for K-12

Following the path hewn by the President–giving tax breaks only for college-level education–Vice President Al Gore has proposed a major Clinton-style expansion of education savings accounts that excludes elementary and secondary education.

In a July 30 campaign speech in Minnesota, presidential candidate Gore called for the creation of 401(j) accounts that would allow “employers and employees to contribute up to $2,500 each year for each working person to pay for college or job training expenses” in public, private, or religious institutions. Withdrawals would be tax-free if used for one’s own college education or that of a spouse or child.

For families making under $40,000 a year–those who “find it hardest to save,” said Gore–the plan would offer an extra dollar of tax relief for every two dollars saved in the accounts.

Bauer Would Extend Vouchers to Homeschoolers

Most school voucher proposals focus on providing education funding for students who transfer from public schools to private schools or who want to attend a school outside their home district. Only rarely do voucher proposals provide for students who attend school at home. Presidential candidate Gary Bauer would change that by allowing vouchers to be used to cover the cost of educating children at home.

“The politicians don’t think very much about this particular alternative,” he told a group of Iowa homeschoolers on July 27, according to a report in The Boston Globe. “This is a legitimate choice and I want to make sure the playing field is level.”

Bauer’s proposal is to allow parents to use voucher funds for curriculum materials or to hire tutors to cover areas where they feel out of their element. Bauer is a longtime supporter of homeschooling and has applauded its increasingly recognized academic excellence. His latest proposal is consistent with his strategy of decentralizing major education decisions and supporting measures that would restore parental choice and parental rights in education.