Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 5, 2008

McCain on school choice

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 10:56 am

I was pleasantly surprised to hear McCain come out so forcefully for school choice.  I knew this would be a campaign item, but thought it would focus on urban settings and fall short of full choice.  I was wrong.

He has pledged to make all schools public schools.  Here is what he said last night:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I’m President, they will.

A little research reveals that I shouldn’t have been surprised as McCain has had these thoughts for years. 

McCain Quotes:

We must fight for the ability of all students to have access to any school of demonstrated excellence. We must place parents and children at the center of the education process, empowering parents by greatly expanding the ability of parents to choose among schools for their children.

Source: Campaign plan: “Bold Solutions for Economic Prosperity” Feb 3, 2008

schools, some have failed, but they’re competing with the public schools, and the level of education is increasing. In New York City today, there are some remarkable things happening under Mayor Bloomberg, who has done marvelous work with an educational system that was clearly broken. Those can be examples of a way to improve education, provide choice and competition, and give every family the same choice I and my family had, and that is to send our child to the school of our choice.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate Dec 12, 2007

Q: How can we improve the quality of public schools in this country?

A: Choice and competition is the key to success in education in America. That means charter schools, that means home schooling, it means vouchers, it means rewarding good teachers and finding bad teachers another line of work. It means rewarding good performing schools, and it really means in some cases putting bad performing schools out of business. I want every American parent to have a choice, a choice as to how they want their child educated, and I guarantee you the competition will dramatically increase the level of education in America. And I applaud our former Governor [Jeb] Bush for the great job he’s done on education in Florida and America.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision Dec 9, 2007 Q: How much power should the federal government have over state education? A: Choice & competition are the key to the future of education in America. Students in America rank at the bottom in the most disciplines such as physics & chemistry. We should try charter schools all over America.

Source: GOP Debate in Johnston, Iowa Jan 16, 2000

We have to have choice and competition in our schools in order to improve our school system, including charter schools, including a test voucher program that would be paid for with ethanol subsidies and with sugar subsidies. And in order to make that system work, the test voucher program throughout America, we have to have good teachers, and I would argue that merit pay, rewards for good teachers and helping bad teachers find another line of work is the way we must go about it.

Source: Republican Debate at Dartmouth College Oct 29, 1999

Our children deserve the best education we can provide to them, whether that learning takes place in a public, private or parochial school. It’s time to give middle and lower income parents the same right wealthier families have — to send their child to the school that best meets their needs. It’s time to conduct a nationwide test of school vouchers. It’s time to democratize education.

Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH Sep 27, 1999

McCain proposed a school voucher program to offer education opportunities for disadvantaged children, paid for by eliminating $5.4 billion worth of subsidies for ethanol, sugar, gas and oil. Under McCain’s three-year test program, disadvantaged children would receive vouchers worth $2,000 a year. The money would be used to offset the costs of attending any school chosen by the student or parents. “We shouldn’t have special interest giveaways at the expense of our neediest children,” McCain said.

Source: Mike Glover, Associated Press Jul 29, 1999

McCain’s platform calls for a school voucher program that would give tax money to middle- and lower-low low income families to send their children to private schools. And he praised charter schools – publicly funded schools that often serve a specialized curriculum and operate free from many government mandates.


Source: Associated Press Jun 14, 1999

McCain knows we can save public education if we “have the courage to do more than placate the defenders of the status quo.” McCain [supports] more money reaching our classrooms, increased financial flexibility for parents, greater choices for families, and well-trained teachers. He [opposes] Washington bureaucrats and public education unions dictating education policies. He believes in letting parents, educators, and local communities make the important decisions about our children’s education.

Source: “Position Papers” 5/24/99 May 24, 1999  McCain believes school vouchers should be available to parents in order that they may place their children in the best learning environment for their particular needs. He feels that each and every child in every classroom deserves a teacher who is qualified and enthusiastic about teaching. “Some people just aren’t meant to be teachers, and we should help them find another line of work. Because if teachers can’t teach, our kids can’t learn.”

Source: “Position Papers” 5/24/99 May 24, 1999

    McCain supports the following principles concerning school choice:

  • Allow parents to use vouchers to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious
  • Allow parents to use tax-free savings accounts to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious
  • Support creation of more charter schools where teachers and professionals receive authorization and funding to establish new schools

Source: Project Vote Smart, 1998, Jul 2, 1998



  1. Although we can be sure she’s not a mouthpiece for the NEA, Mrs. Capalbo has expressed similar misguided fears about school choice resulting in a weakening of public schools. The opposite is true…school choice strengthens and improves public schools.

    “One of the arguments which opponents of school choice always make is that it would adversely affect the public school system. Opponents claim that the alternative schools would siphon off the best students, leaving those who remain who are the least able and the poorest and most disadvantaged students. Just as all of the rest of the arguments which opponents have made have proven false, so also has this argument.”

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 5, 2008 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  2. I’ve got mine, but don’t worry about yours, I’ll take care of you.
    Obama Sends His Kids to Private School But Opposes School Choice Vouchers
    Tuesday, October 21, 2008
    By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

    Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (AP Photo).( – As chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) from 1995 to 2001, Barack Obama helped distribute $49.2 million to help improve Chicago’s public schools, a task for the CAC that two studies showed had little or no impact on improving public education.

    Despite his work to improve Chicago’s public schools, the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee sends his two daughters to the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School, a prestigious private school in Chicago – and he opposes school vouchers, which would allow parents to send their kids to the school of their choice.

    While Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports vouchers, the school choice topic has not been a major issue in the presidential campaign.

    In July, McCain told the National Council of LaRaza, a Hispanic lobbying group: “The civil rights challenge of our time is education. We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition. … We need to empower parents with choice.”

    Obama later blasted McCain’s support for vouchers, saying he was “recycling tired rhetoric.”

    “We know well-designed public charter schools have a lot to offer, and I’ve actually helped pass legislation to expand them,” Obama told a gathering of the American Federation of Teachers in July. “What I do oppose is using public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them.”

    Tuition for the Chicago Lab School where Obama’s daughters attend is $18,492 a year for grades 1-4, the grades Obama’s daughters attend. The tuition climbs to $20,286 a year for grades 5-8, and $21,480 a year for grades 9-12, according to the school’s Web site.

    For advocates of school choice, the fact that Obama sends his own children to a private school is relevant to the school choice debate.

    “That’s not unusual. Loads of people opposed to school choice send their own kids to private school,” said Dick Komer, senior litigation attorney for the Institute for Justice, which supports school vouchers.

    “Wealthy people like Obama have school choice,” Komer told “This is garden variety hypocrisy.”

    Gaily Purkey, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), disagreed that public positions should have a bearing on where an individual sends his or her children to school.

    “It’s the position of the IFT that people can send their children to any school they choose,” Purkey told “But public tax dollars should be put only into public education.”

    The Chicago Lab School that Obama’s daughters attend was founded in 1896 by education innovator John Dewey. It touts its long history of fostering intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, critical thinking and a respect for evidence.

    “We are among the leading independent schools in the nation and pride ourselves on creating conditions for a purposeful search for knowledge and truth,” School Director David W. Magill said in a statement on the Web site for the school.

    Comment by RS — October 21, 2008 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

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