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Not the Usual Suspects

Friday, January 1, 1999

The Most Wanted Quotes on Vouchers and School Choice

Arthur Levine
President of Columbia University
Teachers College

"Throughout my career, I have been an opponent of school voucher programs. . . . However, after much soul-searching, I have reluctantly concluded that a limited school voucher program is now essential for the poorest Americans attending the worst public schools. . . . Today, to force children into inadequate schools is to deny them any chance of success. To do so simply on the basis of their parent’s income is a sin."

Wall Street Journal, June 15, 1998


Steve Jobs
Apple Computer

"What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent. It’s a political problem. . . . I’m one of those people who believe the best thing we could ever do is go to the full voucher system."

Wired, February, 1996


Alveda King
Niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I believe that if Martin Luther King and A.D. King were here they would say ‘Do what’s best for the children.’ It [the idea for school vouchers] may sound radical, but so were they." And, "Is it moral to tax families, compel their children’s attendance at schools, and then give no choice between teaching methods, religious or secular education and other matters?"

Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1997


Laurence H. Tribe
Harvard Law School

"Any objection that anyone would have to a voucher program would have to be policy-based and could not rest on legal doctrine. One would have to be awfully clumsy to write voucher legislation that could not pass constitutional scrutiny . . . aid to parents . . . would be constitutional."

New York Times, June 12, 1991


David Selden
Former President
American Federation of Teachers

"Kids like them, teachers like them, parents like them—even I’ve come to like the vouchers."

Nation’s Schools and Colleges, June, 1975


Rev. Floyd H. Flake
Former U.S. Representative

"This is not a question for me about Democrats or Republicans. It is really a question about whether or not we are going to continue to let every child die, arguing that, if we begin to do vouchers, if we do charter schools, what we in fact are doing is taking away from the public system. We say, let them all stay there. Let them all die. It is like saying there has been a plane crash. But because we cannot save every child, we are not going to save any of our children; we let them all die."

Congressional Record, October 31, 1997


Chicago Tribune

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled well and wisely Wednesday in holding that there is no constitutional bar to the use of taxpayer-provided vouchers to pay for education at church-sponsored private schools. Not only does the decision move the controversial issue a giant step closer to ultimate resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it also clearly puts the legal momentum firmly behind voucher proponents. That should be heartening to anyone who appreciates the practical and profitable role that religious institutions have played and can play in addressing the social needs of America's urban poor."

—Editorial, June 12, 1998


Howard Fuller
Former School Superintendent
Milwaukee School District

"Interests of poor children are best served if they are truly given options, public and private." And "Real reform will only come from pressure from outside the system, generated by empowered parents with expanded school choice."

USA Today, August 25, 1995


Brent Staples
Editorial Board of The New York Times

"Democrats who had made careers as champions of the poor opposed the [school choice] plan, arguing that a solution that did not save every child was unacceptable. The Democrats got the worst of the exchange. They seemed more interested in preserving the public school monopoly than in saving at least some children’s lives [through vouchers]."

New York Times, January 4, 1998


Albert Shanker
Former President
American Federation of Teachers

"It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance, and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."

Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1989


Michael Ovitz
Former President of Disney

"I got a really terrific public education. I am a strong believer in public education and I am also a strong believer in options.’’

—Quoted by Associated Press, June 10, 1998


Gerald E. Stroufe
Former Executive Director
Nat. Com. for Support of the Public Schools

"While the voucher plan has offered despairing parents hope, the educator organizations have chosen to attack the source of hope rather than the causes of despair."

Education Admin. Quarterly, Winter, 1971


Rod Paige
Houston Indep. School District

"[A limited voucher program] doesn’t weaken public school systems, it strengthens public school systems."

Houston Chronicle, May 22, 1998


John Kerry
U.S. Senator

"Shame on us for not realizing that there are parents in this country who . . . today support vouchers not because they are enamored with private schools but because they want a choice for their children. They want alternatives, and seeing none in our rigid system, they are willing and some even desperate to look elsewhere."

—Speech, Northeastern Univ., June 16, 1998


Virginia Walden
D.C. Parent

"I am a lifelong Democrat, and I am not sure when the Democrats decided that siding with the poor and the needy is no longer part of their platform. School choice empowers parents, and I don’t care who is behind it, Democrats or Republicans."

Washington Post, May 24, 1998


Warren Burger
Former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

"[T]he court will come to a more enlightened and tolerant view of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, thus eliminating the denial of equal protection to children in church-sponsored schools, and take a more realistic view that carefully limited aid to children is not a step toward establishing a state religion."

Meek vs. Pittenger (1975)


Dale L. Zuchlewski
Member of the Buffalo Common Council

"Do vouchers take resources from public education? There is that possibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t structure a program that doesn’t hurt the public schools."

Buffalo News, February 20, 1997


William Raspberry

"If I find myself slowly morphing into a supporter of charter schools and vouchers, it isn’t because I harbor any illusions that there’s something magical about these alternatives. It is because I am increasingly doubtful that the public schools can do (or at any rate will do) what is necessary to educate poor minority children."

Washington Post, June 26, 1998


Kurt Schmoke
Democratic Mayor of Baltimore

"If parents of students have the right to choose so many other basics in their lives—such as where they live, where they go to church, where they work—then they also ought have the right to choose where their children go to school."

—Quoted by Associated Press, March 8, 1996


Polly Williams
Wisconsin State Representative

"Choice is the best thing that has come around for my people since I’ve been born. It allows poor people to have those choices that all those other people who are fearing it already have."

Washington Times, April 2, 1990


Roy Allen
Former Democratic Georgia State Senator

"We’ve trusted the bureaucracy to reform the schools, and they haven’t done the job. It’s time we talked about trusting parents to make the decision on what school is best for their children."

Wall Street Journal, September 21, 1993