Voucher Gambit

Didn’t get a lot play in the speech but yesterday’s rumor is true. From the WH:

To ensure that displaced families have maximum flexibility to meet the education needs of their children, the President’s proposal would provide compensation to displaced families for enrollment in private, including parochial, schools.

Clever. Going to be awkward for D’s to argue against this but the future line of argument/trap is obvious: Why should only kids displaced by hurricanes get this…More later.

Update: Helpful reader TP sends along Senator Kennedy’s response emailed to reporters today:


“I applaud the President for his announcement of federal funds to serve the educational needs of the children displaced by hurricane Katrina. But I am extremely disappointed that he has proposed providing this relief using such a politically-charged approach. This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers. We need to focus on getting these kids into the classroom as quickly as possible, and the public school safety net has responded. But equally important, we need to focus on rebuilding the public school systems which are the cornerstones of the Gulf Coast communities and economies. I have been working on a bipartisan package that will get assistance to these families as quickly as possible. These families need real relief, not ideological battles that threaten to slow down their recovery.”

Talk about cross-presssured, the Ds are in a vice. But, seems like someone should call Lakoff! If the Bushies succeed in framing this their way Ds have a problem because they’ll be seen as obstructing the aid. But, if the Ds can frame it as experimenting on an already traumatized population and politicizing the relief effort (per Kennedy above), they win. That’s the politics.

On the policy, the normal voucher arguments don’t really apply because this is an exceptional situation more akin to IDEA’s provisions for private placement in extraordinary circumstances than basic questions of choice policy. But it does seem like administrating this will be a challenge (and how long will the program last?). Any guesses on how many kids are going to go to non-public schools? In any event, after the last few weeks Eduwonk’s confidence in the government’s ability to pull this off in an organized manner is pretty shaky…And of course, is this a bone to the right or a real proposal anyway?

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