In education, as in so many other areas, President Bush is looking to establish his legacy. On No Child Left Behind, no one will be surprised that the President once again called on Congress to reauthorize this landmark law. But the odds of that happening decrease by the day.
For better or worse, history will probably judge Bush’s education legacy as the current program—greatly expanded federal control in education, significantly increased education spending, and testing policies that may be having unintended consequences in the states.
But Bush does have an opportunity to boost his education legacy in 2008—by using the bully pulpit to promote school choice and fight for school choice in the nation’s capitol. And on those points, he did very well tonight.
Bush’s idea for a “Pell Grants for Kids” national voucher program is a non-starter with Sen. Teddy Kennedy and Rep. George Miller. But he should be thanked for reminding the nation that millions of kids who are trapped in failing public schools need school choice.
He also should be applauded for standing up for school choice in Washington, D.C. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program is currently serving 1,900 disadvantaged children. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and others have pledged to end it when it comes due to be reauthorized or refunded in 2008—potentially sending these children back to their low-performing and, all too often, dangerous public schools. Bush is right to fight to give District parents the ability to choose their children’s school.
On that account, it’s notable that First Lady Laura Bush invited D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee to be her guest tonight. Rhee has been a champion of inner city public education reform and a strong supporter of school choice—pledging in December to “never … do anything to limit another parent’s ability to make a choice for their child. Ever.”
Here’s hoping that Bush continues to use the bully pulpit to fight for school choice in Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country during his last 11 months. That would be an education reform legacy for history.