Paige Backs Parental Choice at Meeting of State Legislators

Published October 1, 2002

On August 8, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige addressed a large and supportive audience of state elected officials at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 29th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Nearly 1,000 elected state officials and business representatives gave the secretary standing ovations before and after his talk, interrupting him frequently with applause.

Paige used the occasion to confirm the Bush administration’s commitment to using parental choice to improve the education of every child, “regardless of their zip code—every child in America.” He repeated the administration’s theme, “no child should be left behind.”

To parents who think public schools are doing good enough, he said: “We have some good schools, but they exist as islands of excellence in a sea of not-so-excellence.” And he gently chided those who oppose the administration’s accountability and parental choice initiatives, saying “just spending money won’t make these problems go away.”

Paige said there were five “pillars of success” for school reform: high academic standards, accountability for results, local control and flexibility, parental choice, and teaching methods that work. During a brief discussion of parental choice, he endorsed vouchers and tax credits.

“Our defense relies not only on the strength of arms, but the strength of our values,” he said at the conclusion of his talk. Because of the War on Terrorism, he said, high-quality schools are more important than ever. He pledged the Bush administration’s continued devotion to the cause of reform.

Joseph Bast is president of The Heartland Institute, publisher of School Reform News.