Serial No. 105-154


Printed for the use of the Committee on Education

and the Workforce


















Tuesday, September 9, 1997


House of Representatives


Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families


Committee on Education and the Workforce


The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:00 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Frank Riggs [chairman of the subcommittee], presiding.

Present: Representatives Riggs, Castle, Johnson, Souder, Paul, Goodling, Greenwood, McIntosh, Peterson, Upton, Hilleary, Martinez, Miller, Kildee, Payne, Mink, Roemer, Scott, and Kucinich.

Also Present: Representatives Norwood, Barrett, McKeon, Hinojosa, Kind, McCarthy, Andrews, Tierney, and Fattah.

Staff Present: Kevin Talley, Staff Director; Vic Klatt, Education Policy Coordinator; Sally Lovejoy, Senior Education Policy Advisor; Kent Talbert, Professional Staff; Denzel McGuire, Professional Staff; Rich Stombres, Legislative Assistant; Jo-Marie St. Martin-Green, Parliamentary Counsel; Gail Weiss, Minority Staff Director; Broderick Johnson, Minority Counsel; June Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Minority Legislative Associate; and Margo Huber, Minority Staff Assistant.

Chairman Riggs. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to call to order the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families. We are going to begin our hearing this morning with my opening statement and the opening statement of my friend and the distinguished ranking member of the Committee as we await the arrival of our witnesses.


Chairman Riggs. I want to take this opportunity to welcome our members of the public to the first hearing in this session of Congress on school choice legislative proposals. And there are several currently pending in Congress.

We are going to be pleased to have several distinguished members of the House and Senate here today to talk about their efforts to give parents more choices in the education of their children and their legislation, which would create schools of choice for all American children.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, one of the leading advocates for public and private school choice in the Senate, wanted to be with us today but unfortunately, had a last-minute scheduling conflict. Both he and Senator Dan Coats have made many positive contributions to the debate and have argued with great eloquence for giving families more choices in the education of their children. And I believe Senator Coats will be able to testify today.

I should indicate that I personally have had a longtime interest in public and private school choice and believe that providing a wide range of choice to families will help improve the accountability and the quality of education in this country.

We already have government-funded choice in preschool and in higher education. For example, in the preschool years, families may utilize government-funded child care at public or private facilities and in the post-high school years, as certainly the members of this Committee know, students may take their Pell grants or their student loans and use them at the public or private college of their choice.

Why not extend that same freedom for parents and guardians whose children attend K through 12 schools? I believe we should. I believe that we ought to give parents the full range of choice among all competing institutions. In short, the time is ripe for a national experiment in parental choice in education. The time is ripe for a national discussion on school choice, beginning in this Subcommittee.

Two years ago, Representative Dave Weldon and I introduced a bill that would have experimented with school choice through the creation of public and private school choice demonstration schools. That legislation, H.R. 1640, would have provided for a national experiment in school choice. While I have not yet introduced a bill, a similar-type bill, this session, I continue to believe that we need to see if school choice will work.

We know from recent studies of the Milwaukee and Cleveland choice experiments that test scores are up and parental satisfaction is high. In fact, I am pleased to be going to Cleveland on Friday of this week for one of our crossroads field hearings that will examine firsthand how choice has worked in Cleveland. And I encourage my colleagues to join me and Chairman Hoekstra of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee there.

But the fact is that Milwaukee and Cleveland are obviously just two sites. A national demonstration in several cities will provide more comprehensive and complete data for us to review. Choice may work or it may not work. But let's give it a try in several settings around the country and have a thorough examination.

And I may refer repeatedly today to a recent letter to the editor that was published in the Washington Times on actually, I believe this was published in the Washington Post, although my annotations say Washington Times on July 28th entitled, "The Value of School Choice.'' The author of the letter is Paul Peterson of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Peterson is pretty well known in the education field for his studies on school choice as the Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard. And he concludes his letter to the editor by saying, "The results from Milwaukee as well as the initial results from the second publicly funded school program in Cleveland are encouraging. They indicate that Congress should approve legislation initiating additional experiments in other cities, including Washington, DC, to determine whether this school reform should be introduced nationally.''


Chairman Riggs. Now, shifting focus for just a moment to charter schools, this whole idea of expanded public school choice. Though charter schools have only been around for 6 years, they've quickly spread from one state to over 27 states, including Mr. Martinez's and my home state of California, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Public school choice via charter schools has worked. One need only review the recent findings of a Department of Education study and other private sector studies on the issue of charter schools and expanded public school choice.

Over and over the studies have shown that parents love charter schools, that charter schools as an experiment in decentralizing and deregulating are working, and it actually gives some credence to those who argue that the best public schools, free of some of the onerous regulations that are imposed on them, can compete with the best private schools. But charter schools seem to be attracting a great deal of interest from the consumers of education, parents, who like the small teacher-to-student ratios; the discipline offered there; the academic rigor; and, probably most importantly, the welcoming attitude of the teachers and charter school administrators.

Teachers and principals love charter schools, too, because they're free to be innovative and they're set free from, as I just mentioned, unnecessary paperwork.

The point is public school choice has worked. It has improved the quality of education and the accountability of education. Now let's see if private school choice can work. Let's have a national experiment in private school choice.

In closing, as I said earlier, our purpose here today is to receive testimony on school choice proposals from our colleagues, those that have crafted and introduced as sponsors, original sponsor or cosponsors, several of the school choice proposals now pending in Congress. And I am pleased that so many of our colleagues have taken time off from their schedules to be with us, even though they have not yet arrived. And I look forward to their testimony today at what promises to be a very, very interesting hearing and a very stimulating national debate on the whole issue of school choice.


Chairman Riggs. Mr. Martinez?

Mr. Martinez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Alex.


Mr. Martinez. There's been a long, long debate, long as I can remember, on the issue we're going to be talking about here today. I'd like to, like the Chairman, welcome the people that are going to testify here today, several of our colleagues. I look forward to their interesting testimony and the discussion that we will engage in.

I just want to say before I start my formal statement that there always has been choice. Let me give you an example. I'm an example of that choice. All of my children went to parochial school from the first grade through the sixth grade. After the sixth grade, I gave them their choice whether they wanted to go to a parochial school or not. My oldest boy chose Don Bosco, Don Bosco Tech, and went there for four years. My other children chose public school.

In the years that I have lived, I have never been completely happy with the end result of children that go to parochial school from the first grade through the graduation. They always seem to be out of synch when they get out of school and they need time and a process by which they become accustomed to dealing with people in the real world. Having said that, I would not deny people the right to do whatever they want with their kid, but the choice has always been there.

The question here is not choice or more choice. There's plenty of choice. Congress seems to struggle and grasp at straws to try to improve the educational system, but when they do, they only do it for precious few, not for the mass, not for the entire public school system, where on into the future will the majority of our students be taught in those public schools. And that's where we have to concentrate on the improvement.

My colleagues who are testifying before us today let me just finish that last thought, and I really didn't. The choice, really, is whether or not we are going to use taxpayers' dollars to allow parents to send their kids to private schools or whether or not we're going to abide by the Constitution concerning the separation of church and state. Those are really the issues at the heart of this proposal.

However, my colleagues who are testifying here today have legislative proposals, which provide some form of voucher for students to attend private, often religious-based, schools. And I'm sure it doesn't come as any surprise to any of those here today that I am adamantly opposed to any use of public tax dollars for such a purpose.

I paid for my kids to go to private school, that parochial school. I would have liked to have gotten a tax credit and I do believe in tax credits for the tuition that I paid there that I didn't take advantage of the tax that I paid for the public school support, although I would never deny that public school support because I realize it's important that we have mass public education.

So, as I stand here today adamantly opposed to some of the proposals that are before us now, I believe that they not only raise some serious Constitutional questions, but these proposals will do very little to help the mass students. Those that will be benefiting are those that will be going to the private schools.

The proposals which will be discussed before us today, the American Community Renewal Act, the Safe and Affordable School Act, the DC Scholarship Act, and several proposals related to the Coverdell amendment to the recently passed tax bill, ignore the problems of today's educational system while attempting to capitalize on political rhetoric.

Any proposal which invites the idea of providing private school vouchers dismantles the educational system, which guarantees access for all, all, by leaving choice in the hands of private school administrators, admissions officers.

In addition to the destruction of equality and the most basic opportunity, the opportunity to learn, there's not one research study, not one, which provides evidence that vouchers improve students' learning. Because of the lack of that evidence, I see little reason to establish any type of federal voucher program.

We have seen the existing voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland provide no improvement in student achievement levels, despite the fact that they have been in operation, at least in the case of Milwaukee, for over six years.

In addition to the complete lack of a policy basis for enacting any type of private school voucher proposal, the American people have spoken repeatedly that they have no interest in such programs. Over 20 states have held referenda on this issue. And the citizens of all 20 states have rejected voucher programs.

We will hear today about recent polling data, which will be portrayed as showing the American people are more interested in private school vouchers than ever before. Let me tell you what more people are interested in than ever before today: the quality education of their children.

And people and parents, especially in the neighborhoods that I come from, are always trying to find a perfect way to get their kids educated and get their kids a better education. And when you talked to the general public about education, if you did the poll on that, it would be the number one priority of most Americans.

If you closely examined, though, however, the results of the polls that show there is a greater interest in school vouchers today, you will see that this argument is based purely on political rhetoric and is negated by other polls with opposite conclusions. Our goal as a public policy-maker should be to construct broad policy, which improves the education results of all our children, not just a few, not just a select few.

One of the most deeply rooted values in this country has been that all children are guaranteed access to education. And I might suggest that in more recent years, people have been concentrating on quality public education.

The public school system has been the institution in this country, which has provided this opportunity. Yes, there are problems in our public schools, serious problems, which deserve serious solutions. Those who support the vouchers want to abandon our public schools and a vast majority of our children, who would remain in what is already an under-funded system.

Those of us in Congress need to show leadership in combating the problems that face us as elected leaders, not run away from them. Only by working within the public school system can we build successes and learn from our failures of the past in our attempts to educate our nation's children.

I want to thank you very much for the time, Mr. Chairman. And I look forward to the testimony from our witnesses.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Martinez. And let me just reiterate my personal invitation for you to join us this Friday in Cleveland for the field hearing there. Given your opinion that the choice experiment there, the demonstration program underway in Cleveland's city schools, has not produced positive results.

And let me also go back and just again cite Dr. Peterson, Paul Peterson, Director of the of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, who is well-known for his studies on academic improvement of students participating in school choice programs, specifically in Milwaukee and in Cleveland city schools. And, again, just a moment ago, I cited his July 28th letter to the Washington Post, in which he urged Congress to pass a nationwide school choice demonstration program.

Now, I'm told that the Speaker Gingrich, who is our first witness, is on the way. Obviously, we have good attendance by members this morning. We could, if a member feels a compelling urge, recognize other members for opening statements pending the Speaker's arrival.

Mr. Riggs , the Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee?

Mr. Castle. I will try to be brief, Mr. Chairman. Others may want to speak.


Mr. Castle. I think this is a great subject for a hearing. This is as important as any subject that this Congress can take up. And I think that the whole issues of school choice are something that we should be discussing. And I would hope that we could get away from a too conservative or liberal or Republican/Democrat-type argument and really try to figure out what is going on.

I'm a strong believer that some competition within our public school system is vitally important to education. I am a believer in choice in public schools. In my state, Delaware, we are starting to do that. We're doing it within school districts, of which there are 19 of them. And we need to continue to expand that.

I'm a believer in charter schools because they present a unique opportunity as well. And I think there is some worthwhile discussion in terms of what we should do vis-à-vis private schools, be it vouchers or some other form of choice. I haven't necessarily embraced that yet because I see some issues.

And I see the Speaker is here.

But one of those things that concerns me is when we talk about disadvantaged families, you often hear the expression, "Well, we leave the disadvantaged families out of the mix if we provide choice.'' And I think when we say "disadvantaged,'' we're generally talking about economic disadvantage. And I think some of the programs we're going to hear about today help the economic disadvantaged somewhat because they indeed should have some relatively equal choice as far as choice in schools is concerned.

But I'm also concerned about the handicapped, physically, mentally, the learning disabled, maybe even with undetected problems of disability. I'm worried about the socially and educationally limited; that is, those children whose parents don't really care enough to even think about how to make a choice or whose upbringing is such that education is a de minimis part of their upbringing and so, for that reason, they could care less if they're in a public school, private school, or whatever education will do for them. Will we leave such great problems behind that other schools will have trouble functioning?

I don't raise these as negative objections because I do believe in the concept of trying to ultimately provide choice. I would just urge us all to be as cautious as possible as we make these decisions to make sure that whatever we do will be open to everybody.

I would also point out the whole issue of federal and state. We often, particularly on our side of the aisle, argue that the federal government should not be overly involved in education, this is truly a state priority and the state is the place where education should be determined. I agree with that for the most part, although I think the federal programs we have should be in place. But we have to be I think cautious not to preempt what is happening in the states at a federal government level as well; that is, pass such sweeping legislation we would do that.

As I've already indicated, in my state, we're doing this right now. And it's happening in other states as well. So that's another word of caution. But it's a tremendous subject and one we should be looking at. And I am delighted that we're having such a hearing. I yield back the balance of my time.

Chairman Riggs. I thank the Vice-Chairman for his comments. He's absolutely right.

When we speak of school choice, demonstrating the concept, really, we're talking about two fundamental bottom-line concerns. One is: Will choice improve individual pupil performance? And, secondly, will it cause under-performing schools through more competition to improve their performance?

Now, Mr. Roemer was here at the outset of the hearing. The Speaker is here, and I know he's on a very limited time schedule. So, Mr. Roemer, if you'd have a quick statement that you'd like to make, sir? And then we'll go right to the Speaker. Mr. Roemer, you're recognized.

Mr. Roemer. I will make just a very quick statement and then open the floor to our distinguished Speaker from Georgia, Mr. Gingrich.


Mr. Roemer. A number of us oppose, strongly oppose, the vouchers for our public schools. We do so not on grounds of making the tough choices that must be made to reform our schools.

Chicago is making those tough choices by reconstituting schools, by closing schools down that are not functioning, by compassionately and efficiently caring about those schools, but also realizing the overall need, the very vital need, that the public school systems provide for our nation's children to assimilate our children, to educate our children, and that we cannot afford to give up on one single child or one single public school.

Let us try to reform those schools through charter schools, through earlier proactive education, through investment in our teachers and professional training, through alternative schools and magnet schools, through less bureaucracy and more public school choice.

And many of us feel that opening up this system is not a safety valve per se, but it will result in a giant sucking sound that will actually take scores of money away from our public school system and not really reform them.

So we have ideas. We think there are bold ideas out there and initiatives that need to be tried to invest in these public schools and reform them and save them and not give up on them.

I would end my statement just briefly here, Mr. Chairman, by saying that there have been a number of articles written, even by conservatives. Timothy Lamer wrote recently in the Washington Post, arguing a conservative case against school choice. Gerald Seib wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently about the right flank not being united on choice.

So I think there's a lot of controversy about this. And I'm hopeful that this Speaker will remain with us after his statement and engage us in a debate, not just make a statement but engage us and answer some questions with us. Since he is dedicated to ideas and discussion of ideas, we're hopeful to seriously engage the Speaker and talk with him about this very, very vital issue.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Roemer.

Good morning, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Gingrich. Good morning.

Chairman Riggs. The honorable Newt Gingrich is obviously the Speaker of the House.

Mr. Speaker, can you tell us at the outset how much time you have?

Mr. Gingrich. I'll take the time Mr. Roemer wants.

Chairman Riggs. Okay.

Mr. Gingrich. My staff rearranged my schedule.

Chairman Riggs. Okay. Thank you very much for being here, Mr. Speaker. And please proceed with your testimony.

Mr. Gingrich. And, frankly, the reason I'm very happy to do that and I appreciate his invitation is that I believe that we are in a crisis in education and I believe it's time we had some very direct, candid conversation about this crisis and we talk about where the answers are going to be found.


Mr. Gingrich. I recently had the opportunity to be in Los Angeles and talk to Mayor Riordan, who said that his best estimate is that in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles, 12 percent of the 18-year-olds can read at the 8th grade level, 88 percent of the 18-year-olds in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles cannot read at the 8th grade level when they're 18. This is based again on Mayor Riordan, who has a personal history as a philanthropist of spending millions of dollars on reading programs, literacy programs, and trying to help children learn how to read, not just in California, but in Mississippi and elsewhere.

And he said, frankly, having been mayor for four years that this is a crisis, which the country continues to ignore. Now, I would point out to you that the "Nation at Risk'' report, which first said we are literally in danger of losing our young people, is from 1983. It is 14 years old.

We have had 14 years of promises of reform, promises if change, promises of doing better, new fads, new approaches. And the fact is in 1997, the mayor of Los Angeles can report that in one of the greatest cities of this country, that in his estimate, 88 percent, more than 4 out of 5, 18-year-olds in the poorest neighborhoods are being so badly served that they can't read.

Now, this is a crisis of enormous proportions. I think it's a real need. I happened to have a chance to be at the Saint Augustine School for an eighth grade graduation earlier this year with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Children who were on a matching scholarship program, their parents put up half the money, and a private foundation put up half the money, these were working poor whose parents cared enough to scrimp and save to be able to send their children to a school they believed would teach their child how to read.

And Delegate Norton said she was always proud when she went to a private school in Washington because she knew she could ask the young people to pledge not to drop out. And when they raised their hand with that pledge, they would keep it because the graduation rate in private school is between 97 and 99 percent.

By the way, the average price for a Catholic school in Washington is $2,300. The average price for a failing public school is over $8,000. So it's not a money issue. It is a structure issue. It is a culture issue. It is a certification issue. It's not a money issue. Now, we tried to meet that need.

I was also recently at Indianapolis for a scholarship program, again, where parents have to put up half the money and they care enough. And here's the tragedy. In Washington, there are 250 children currently getting matching scholarships. There are 850 more children on the waiting list whose parents are so upset by the lack of quality in the education they are being forced into that they are scrimping and saving to try to find the money to save their children's lives, to give them a decent future.

In Indianapolis, which has been at this for a lot longer time, they gave away I forget the exact number of scholarships. They still had 1,910 children on the waiting list, whose parents are working poor who believe their child is being cheated by the bureaucracy that traps them in a school that is not teaching them.

Now, I very strongly support the Coverdell education savings account concept, which helps by setting up a tax-free interest buildup if you save after-tax income.

Some of our friends have said, "Well, but the very poorest can't afford to participate.'' I would point out, first of all, that under the Coverdell education savings account if a child is born and it's a relative of yours and that relative doesn't have much money, you can donate to the child's savings account annually. You can give them a birthday gift.

But I do note also that those who raise the issue for the Coverdell education savings account that the poor don't have enough money don't then turn around and say, therefore, "We should give the poor a parental choice scholarship.'' It's not a question of, "Let's make sure the poor have a choice.'' Those who oppose Coverdell tend to also oppose parental choice scholarships. So what they're really saying is, "How do we keep the kids trapped?''

Now, I want to submit for the record, if I might, an editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, which begins with the following quote, "Our vote for the worst scandal in America right now is the education monopoly that keeps poor inner-city kids trapped in awful public schools. Special mention here goes to the politicians who oppose giving these children the choice to escape, even as they send their own kids to private school.''


Mr. Gingrich. I'd also like to put in the record an editorial from the Detroit News entitled "Ms. Coleman's School Choice,'' which begins as follows, "During a WJLB-FM radio interview last week, Detroit school board member April Howard Coleman mentioned decision to remove her son from a Detroit public school and send him to a private school. She may have been surprised by the ensuing uproar. She had announced this action last September, after all, and it had occasioned little comment.

"But the public's response isn't hard to understand. It sends a message as loud to politicians as her own decision sends to parents: One good choice deserves another.

"Ms. Coleman transferred her son from a Detroit public school to a private school for the 1996-1997 school year, a fact reported by The News a year ago. During her recent radio interview, according to the Detroit Free Press, she elaborated: 'I took him out (of the system) because he needed to be in a smaller atmosphere. But the bottom line is, he couldn't read’.’’

The editorial goes on to say, "Ms. Coleman's son was entering the second grade. Her decision, as a parent, to act quickly on helping her child is beyond reproach. Indeed, it speaks well of her that she was willing to risk her image as a member of the school board in order to take care of her son.'' And I'd like to submit that for the record.



Mr. Gingrich. The Wall Street Journal went on to cite a paper which is available in draft form by Nina Shokraii of the Heritage Foundation entitled "How Members of Congress Practice School Choice.'' She points out in this paper that nationally only 14.1 percent of school-age children, including 8 percent of black American children and 8 percent of Hispanic children attend private school.

She goes on to say, "For Members of Congress, the private school option evidently is appealing. Of those who responded to the survey, 34.4 percent of the Representatives and 50 percent of the Senators with children who are school-age or older currently send or have sent at least one of their children to private school.''



Mr. Gingrich. Now, this fascinated me because two years ago we passed scholarships for Washington, DC. We created 3,000 scholarships. And I would say to the gentleman from Indiana we didn't take money from the system. We took $3,000 per child, which would have left $5,000 additional dollars behind to be used for the children who were still here. So we actually were increasing the amount of money available for the children who stayed in the DC system because we were leaving $5,000 behind and only taking $3,000 for parental choice scholarships.

That passed the House. It went to the Senate. And in the Senate, 44 members of the Senate filibustered; allowing the poorest children of DC this was entirely committed to poor children the poorest children of DC to have no choice. Of those 44 senators, zero had a child in the DC schools, not a one.

Now I just want to suggest, you know, I'm a product of public schools, my wife is a product of public schools, both our daughters are products of public schools. I believe in the public school system. I believe if you're in a good public school system, you ought to stay there. I believe if your public school isn't good, you ought to improve it.

But public school should be a magnet and not a trap. And if a school has violence, if it has, as one DC school did, a principal who believed that fourth graders having sex in the school in a classroom was okay as long as it was consensual, and that was his quote I don't think you should trap parents in that building.

And you can give me all of the malarkey you want to about reform, but the fact is we have had 14 years, and large inner-city public bureaucracies don't reform very rapidly. And while they're not reforming, children are being destroyed.

Nothing is a greater indicator of a child's future than whether or not they can read by fourth grade. If they can't read by fourth grade, you can talk about self-esteem all you want to, they know they can't read, and it has a devastating impact on them.

Choice is very simple. We don't believe Washington bureaucracies are the solution. We don't think Washington red tape is the solution. We believe local parents, local children, and local teachers are the solution.

That's why we favor 90 percent of the money from the federal government being spent in the local classroom, not in the bureaucracy. That's why we favor parental choice.

And I would cite to you a Polly Williams work as a former Jesse Jackson State chairwoman, a former welfare mother, a Democratic state legislator in Wisconsin. She worked with Governor Thompson. They created choice for Milwaukee. I would cite to you Governor Voinovich's program for Cleveland, the recent effort by Governor Carlson to provide parental choice in Minnesota.

When states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio believe parental choice is a necessary alternative to destroying children in bad schools, I suggest there's a lesson here for the country.

We think we ought to focus on the basics and the children ought to be able to read and write English by the end of the third grade if they're going to function in this society and have a full chance to pursue opportunity and prosperity.

And, finally, we think the Coverdell education savings accounts are a useful asset, whether you're in public school or private. If you're in public school, you can use the Coverdell education savings account to pay for tutoring, to pay for special help for a child with disabilities, to pay for a home computer.

There are a variety of things you can use it for that are positive in the public schools. It is a useful incentive to increase the focus on learning and on education. But I think that at the core of it, for the poorest children in the poorest neighborhoods in the worst schools, they deserve and their parents deserve the right to have parental choice, rather than to have them trapped in bad schools.

And I would just cite and then I'll take any questions you'd like. Anyone who says we ought to be patient, I would cite two things. First, it has been 14 years since the "Nation at Risk.'' You can go around this country today and find school building after school building with high dropout rates, very low learning curves, very low achievement levels with violence and danger for the children and a lack of discipline, and you can find them today, 14 years after that report.

And, second, those who oppose parental choice ought to take on the moral burden of sending their child to the worst school in their state before they tell other people it's okay to trap their children. But I think there's something wrong when there's a double standard. And those who can get away from the worst schools do so, but they leave behind children who have no hope and who are trapped in a system that has no discipline, no education, and no future.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for a very incisive and provocative testimony. I'm sure every member of this Subcommittee would like the opportunity to pose questions to you, but I should note that both Senator Coats and Senator Moseley-Braun have joined us.

And I need to get an idea from Senator Coats and from Senator Moseley-Braun as to whether their schedules will permit them to stay for a few minutes for us to delay their testimony so that members have an opportunity at least to pose a few questions to the Speaker of the House. Senator Coats, how are you time-wise?

Mr. Coats. I'm more than willing to wait.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, sir.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Absolutely.

Chairman Riggs. Okay. Very good. Mr. Speaker, let me just briefly note that the follow-up to "A Nation at Risk,'' entitled, appropriately, "Reclaiming the Nation at Risk,'' a study headed by the late Terrence Bell, points out that decentralization of our schools is one key to bringing about real accountability and real improvement of the public school system.

I also would like to add to your testimony just a simple note that some pretty interesting folks are lining up now in support of the idea of scholarships for low-income children in the District of Columbia, scholarships that would allow them to attend the school of their choice.

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry has recently editorialized in favor of the idea. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. and head of a group called King for America, has endorsed the concept.

What is remarkable to me is that some of the recent polling data suggests that African Americans now by a majority, 57 percent, support school vouchers or school choice for public, private, or parochial schools. And I wanted to get your reaction to the growing support in the African American community for school choice.



Mr. Gingrich. Let me say, first of all, I met with General Becton last week, whom I think is doing a very sincere and very serious job of trying to overhaul the physical plant of the District of Columbia schools. And he made the comment to me that, in response to a question from a reporter who said, "Would you meet with parents more often?'' he said, "Well, if by 'meeting,' you mean having 100 people scream at you at the top of their lungs, that's not very productive.''

And I turned to him, and I said, "You know, this is a pretty good argument for parental choice scholarships if you could have turned to those 100 parents and said, 'Look, if you're that angry, then take your child to a different school’.’’

But, in fact, the reason they were screaming at him is they are trapped in the current system. They are told on short notice that every school in the city is closed for three weeks, including the schools that do not have a problem. They're lives are totally disrupted. They're now being told the school day will be changed. Everything is in a jumble. They have a sense of powerlessness.

So here they are trapped in a system where they have no choices. They have no leverage. They have no power. And the result is they end up screaming at the top of their lungs.

And I think he was sort of startled at the idea that if he could have turned and said, "Why are you screaming at me? You have control of your child's future. Pick a school you think will do a better job,'' that it would have alleviated that whole event.

So I think it's very hard for people looking both at the performance level of the DC schools, looking at things like last year's incident when you had the fourth graders strip naked in the classroom during the daytime and the principal then defending it on the grounds that it was consensual and then looking at the fact that every building in the city is now closed for three weeks, it's a little hard to justify why we could not have an opportunity for the poorest children in this city to be in a school today where there would be discipline, learning, and a teacher who is actually performing. But, again, some people seem to be willing to explain why they should be trapped.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Speaker, what do you anticipate are the prospects for action on any of the pending school choice proposals in this session of Congress? You mentioned

Mr. Gingrich. I would certainly hope we would both pass the right of parental choice for the District of Columbia, where, as I said, the record for and it's a very expensive school system, over $8,000 a year. You could virtually send every child in DC to a private prep school for the kind of money we're now spending badly through an administrative system that doesn't work.

And I would like to, frankly, see some kind of experiment where Title I money or other money could be used at the local discretion with local control if the local community decides that's how they want to do it.

As I said earlier, I favor very much the proposal that's been made that 90 percent of all federal money should be spent in the classroom, not spent by bureaucrats.

And I think that if we're going to have federal health education, real learning occurs in a local classroom with a local teacher, a local parent, and a local child. It does not occur in a Washington office with a Washington bureaucrat.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Speaker let me just also clarify for our audience and the media present that that $8,000 figure that you're mentioning is the estimated per-pupil expenditure by the District of Columbia public schools.

Mr. Gingrich. Well, let me say the fact is and I've tried for a year, year and a half to solve this we don't know how much we spend because the District of Columbia cannot tell us how many children there are or how many teachers there are or what their total budget is. So it is impossible to get an accurate estimate because they literally don't know.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Martinez?

Mr. Martinez. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I've listened very attentively to what you said. And I agree with some of what you say. You know, I, as much as anybody because I was elected in 1982 right after that, the "Nation at Risk'' report came out, and I can remember every election thereafter. Those politicians who wanted to use the "Nation at Risk'' as an example of the good things they were going to do for education and how bad the schools were, has gone on, and not much has changed in those 14 years. You're absolutely right.

When I look at this problem and the situation, since I grew up, the greatest disappointments to me in life were when somebody promised utopia and there was never any utopia. And when I look at a lot of these proposals, I see the same thing. Because you're looking at people, the people you're talking about out there in these school districts in DC and DC. I want to make it very clear, this is a very different situation than the rest of the country. In most parts of the country, the local school board has complete control over that school system within their jurisdiction. DC, here, the federal government has a greater responsibility and is able to do more things.

But not too long ago I read a book. It said our children are being educated in garbage dumps, referring to those schools. And I say: Well, why not do something about cleaning that up. Because what we concentrate on from the federal government, you have to remember, is only about six percent of the total budget that is spent in education in any local district. So if we spent 90 percent of that federal dollar in the classroom, there's still only about 6 percent of that money they use in the classroom.

You compare the price of parochial schools here in DC of 2,300 to 8,000 public, but the 2,300 isn't the true picture because there are a lot of things, like uniforms, transportation, books, and everything else, which in a lot of public schools are provided that are not provided in those parochial schools.

If the parochial school had to compete on the same level or to put up with the same regulations that the public schools have to, that cost would be greater than even at 2,300 of actual tuition. And then there would be the question of whether a lot of poor people could afford it.

I do support the Coverdell amendment, which would provide some kind of a tax credit for people who send their kids to parochial school, because before you got out here, I had mentioned all of my five children went to parochial school from the first through sixth grades. When they started in the intermediate area, they got a choice themselves of what school they wanted to go to. They wanted to go to public school except my oldest son, who went to Don Bosco Tech, a parochial school. And he graduated from there.

So I've always had the choice. And I think most parents have. And most parents of our means always have. And, like you say, yeah, we're worried about those poor children that are going to still be trapped. The majority of those people are still going to be trapped, because nothing the federal government does for that little six percent, that we provide, really can move that mass of children out of that garbage dump into a place that they might call utopia. And that's the disappointment that a lot of us have to live with day in and day out.

So I'm wondering. Whatever effort we spend, which is so minimal from the federal government, why wouldn't we spend it more on concentrating on cleaning up the garbage dumps that our children are being educated in than a new system which gives some people an opportunity to have that choice but not all people.

Mr. Gingrich. That's a very, very good question. Let me say, first of all, I believe that we should encourage the maximum level of local responsibility and maximum level of toughness mentally about saving these kids. And whether that's in Los Angeles or Atlanta, I think we have an obligation to be very aggressive about trying to change things when the schools are bad.

Second, I believe that if we were to take all federal funding and go to 90 percent of it being available at the local level, when you realize that there are 760 programs that were identified as relating to education, of which I think 660 have been funded and are these are federal programs, each with their own petty bureaucracy.

I asked one of my superintendents' Saturday "How much paperwork does Cobb County deliver?'' And he's actually going to get me a set of all the paperwork they do annually for the federal government.

He said, "It's amazing and mindless.''

So I just start with the notion that I think there are things we can do to make the money more available with greater flexibility back home. We're not proposing that we replace all federal aid with parental choice, but we are suggesting that the lesson of Cleveland and of Milwaukee and now of Minnesota, may be that, even allowing a relatively small amount of choice, allowing, for example, Title I money to be used if that's what the local community thinks will most leverage change, what that does, is it creates a pressure for change.

And I'm just suggesting that as you yourself said, after 14 years of not having succeeded in reform, maybe creating that leverage, giving parents that choice will change the dialogue locally.

And why not try the experiment? We've had 14 years of centralized bureaucracy not succeeding. Why not try the experiment of seeing if parents can't have a bigger impact on the system?

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Martinez.

Mr. McIntosh, I understand you have a statement you want to insert in the record. All members will have that opportunity.

Mr. McIntosh. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Chairman Riggs. Mr. Norwood?

Mr. Norwood. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for being here and thank you for your comments. I observed earlier that the number of six percent was used in regards to how much funding goes down to our schools locally from the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me, though the funding level is very low, the direction that the public schools have to operate under from the federal government is very high in terms of the rules and regulations that the schools have to operate under. Would it be a fair statement to say today that our public schools really are government schools?

Mr. Gingrich. I think it's fair to say that they are certainly government-controlled and government-defined.

Mr. Norwood. If they are, then, controlled by the government, shouldn't our discussion be based on the fact that what we want is the best possible education for our children, which doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be government schools? And from that, then, why wouldn't we be willing to try something else, such as a simple demonstration project, to see if the vouchers do work? I don't understand why people refuse to at least give that a try.

Mr. Gingrich. I guess, if I could, Mr. Norwood, the only comment I would make is before any of our colleagues vote no, I really think they ought to go to the worst schools in their state and talk to the children and talk to the parents about the level of despair.

I was moved because the Chicago Tribune sent a team into one particular school in Chicago for an entire year. At the end of the year, they had identified a teacher who every principal she had ever worked for had tried to fire and tenure had saved her. Every principal she had ever worked for said she ruined one class of third graders a year. They went to her, and they said, "You have 11 years left. What is your educational professional goal?''

And she said, "To retire with a full pension.''

Now, if your child or my child was about to get that teacher and we went and complained and the principal said, "My hands are tied''. And I read the other day about a New York principal who had one teacher so bad that he made it his personal crusade to get rid of that teacher and spent 200 hours of time personally it took the principal 200 hours of personal time to fire one teacher who was terrible. Now, there's something wrong with a bureaucracy where you can have in the Chicago system this is prior to the system being taken over by the city. But I just cite that as an example.

So I would say that your point is correct but that those who trap the children don't go and talk directly to the people who are in the pain that that trap is causing. I don't believe that they could continue it if they actually went and looked at the worst schools in their state and talked to the parents and children in those schools.

Mr. Norwood. Well, Mr. Speaker, lastly, let me just ask you this particular question: The schools today that we have are some very desirable in public education and some that are not. Do you believe if we gave parents choices of schools that it would make the public schools worse or better?

Mr. Gingrich. I think you would see a substantial improvement because there will be more of an awareness that parents had a real choice and real power and there be a greater sense of responsibility. But I also think we in the Congress have an obligation and a sense, as Mr. Martinez was saying, we have an obligation, to look at how to give more flexibility locally. We have an obligation to look at how to cut through some of the red tape and some of the regulations. I think we have an obligation to encourage the state legislatures and the governors to do the same thing.

We have layer upon layer upon layer of bureaucracy, red tape, regulation, and over-management, at the bottom of which there's a local teacher, a local parent, and a local child. And they are in a sense trapped now by this mountain of red tape we have dumped on top of them.

Mr. Norwood. Well, I couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Speaker. And I hope that if we really all want to reform and improve education that we can do so without demagoguing this issue and politicizing this issue because we found out last year that when you do that, when you politicize this issue that is so important to the future of this country for the next century, you're really not going to get any improvement and any reform.

And, with that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Norwood.

Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I will recognize Mr. Roemer because he's next on the list. And then that perhaps would be a good opportunity for us to conclude your testimony.

Mr. Gingrich. I do thank our two colleagues from the other body for their patience in allowing me to be here.

Chairman Riggs. I'm sure they'll want to react to your remarks as well. So we'll look forward to their testimony.

Mr. Roemer?

Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, Mr. Speaker, I sincerely appreciate your staying here for some questions. And, just as many of us on this side reached out to work in a bipartisan way with you on the budget, to balance the budget, which I think we have achieved an historic agreement there, congratulations to you, to the President, to many people I would hope in education that you and I and others can work together because what you said about a "Nation at Risk", about not being able to be patient any more in the way too many of our public schools treat our children is absolutely right. And I would hope there would be bipartisan cooperation and agreeing in some areas where we can go in and save our schools.

Now, I have visited those schools in DC, in Chicago, and in other places. And while you and I might disagree on vouchers, let me mention an Options Charter School to you here in DC that I visited. And maybe you and I and others can work to cut through red tape so that those kinds of charter schools that provide accountability, that provide choice, and that often go after some of the most vulnerable school children in the system are more prevalent in America today.

The Options Charter School is one where 100 percent of the students are minority, 100 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. I think 90 percent of the students are 2 to 3 years behind their age and grade level, where they're supposed to be. This charter school is trying to reach those students that the system has given up on. Yet, they are having trouble getting funding.

I think charter schools are a marvelous way of providing accountability and choices through the public school system. That is one area that I would hope that we could establish some bipartisan cooperation. And I would ask for your comment in just one second.

Secondly, on a serious note as well, too, the Chicago example where Paul Vallas and Richard Daley, the Mayor of Chicago, have not resorted to the vouchers but, instead, have resorted to public school choice, reconstituting schools, firing teachers and principals that aren't doing their jobs, making sure that there is accountability and choice within the public school system, driving the choices down to the local level. The federal government isn't involved in that reform and that reconstituting and that restructuring. It's the local people that have taken control of that local system.

What kinds of things can you tell us that we can learn from that example to save our public school system, to invest in that with some radical new ideas, and to not give up on one single child or one single public school?

Mr. Gingrich. Let me say, first of all, that I really appreciate your point about trying to reach out in a bipartisan way. And I do think that on the budget, on tax cuts, on saving Medicare, we did a remarkable job as an American team without regard to party. And people can disagree about the details. But overall I think what we accomplished in July and what the President signed into law in early August was a substantial achievement.

In the recent Congressional Budget Office report that you know, in January '95, they estimated there would be a $322 billion deficit in 2002. Last week they came out and said there will now be a $32 billion surplus. That's a sling of $354 billion in our children's indebtedness in one year. And I think that kind of change could not have happened without a tremendous effort on a bipartisan basis.

I guess my only point to you would be I favor charter schools. I favor the maximum level of locally driven reform in education. I think that sadly states, at times, New Jersey, for example, has taken over the Newark schools or the Jersey City schools at various times. We may have to take stronger steps in DC.

There is a legitimate right for the larger government at times to intervene when a system in Chicago, the city intervened. And I think sometimes you have to do that because of the politics of school boards and the way local administrations collapse, frankly.

But, despite everything that's been done, my only suggestion to you would be that we ought to encourage and applaud those who have the courage to focus on the children first. We ought to cut through the certification areas that don't make sense. We ought to cut through the red tape that doesn't make sense. We should cut through the unionized contracts that don't make sense.

And that's a big part of it. I mean, the tenure provisions that make it almost impossible to manage some of these schools are enormously destructive when they are used to hide people who are incompetent. They're very important when they're used to block favoritism. And, of course, the difficulty is: How do you get at the incompetence without creating opportunities for favoritism?

So I would like to cooperate with you on public choice, on public charter schools. I'd like to know from Mayor Daley and others: How can we be more helpful? One of the questions we should be asking is: What are the things the federal government does which make it harder for local officials to have local choice and local options and local reforms because they're so busy dealing with federal bureaucracy and federal red tape and federal instructions?

All I would say to you as a part of this bipartisanship is if you were to allow… Let's just take a number, 20 experiments in the entire country. In which, say, Title I could be used for parental choice scholarships by 20 school systems that applied if they wanted to do it locally, would it really be that great a threat to the structure of the current system if you had 20 in an entire nation? Or might we learn something useful? If the scholarships only applied to the poorest children in the poorest school areas, might we not actually learn something useful? If it works, then we may want to expand it. If it doesn't work, then considering all the other things that haven't worked in the last 14 years, it would certainly be no worse than many other efforts.

And I think all I would say to our friends on the Democratic side is we are willing to be very bipartisan about public school choice, charter schools, and a wide range of choices within the current structure. We would ask you to be a little open-minded after 14 years since the "Nation at Risk'' report and consider the possibility of some limited locally driven, locally decided efforts to use federal funding in a way that increases the parents' right to choose in the poorest schools.

Mr. Payne. Mr. Roemer, would you yield for 30 seconds?

Mr. Speaker, would you also consider a 20-school public school experiment, where we take 20 public schools, not vouchers or

Mr. Gingrich. Sure. But how would you do that, Mr. Payne?

Mr. Payne. Well, take Newark. You mentioned it. Let's take a school in Newark, and let's give the same attention that a voucher would do. And let's see whether the difference is the fact that it's a private school because we could even point to a few in that system now, the Harriet Tubman I'd like you to visit it sometime right in the Newark system there.

Mr. Gingrich. I think you could take some of the best of the public inner city schools there are some, for example, in Harlem. There are others that have made national reputations as great centers of learning. I think it would be very exciting if we could find a genuinely bipartisan way to craft a bill where we took, say, 20 centers of public learning excellence that we tried to maximize, focus attention on, find out what worked, and get other schools to copy them and make them real models of excellence that people could focus on reshaping the public schools around, and at the same time took 10 or 20 opportunities for those school districts, for the school districts to have to apply I'm not suggesting here that we do this at a federal level but either have the states apply so that the governor might apply and say, "I'd like the right to offer this in my largest city'' or whatever, but design if we could have both those pilots in the same bill in a genuinely bipartisan way, I think we would have accomplished a great deal for our country in moving the debate forward.

And I'll just say in closing the key to this, it seems to me, is to focus on the children. The real question is not what's happening to the tenure, what's happening to the teachers, what's happening to the bureaucracy, what's happening to the federal government. Are the children learning better or are the children not learning better and what is, frankly, for some of us, the bolder and bolder steps?

It's been 14 years since Terrence Bell first issued "A Nation at Risk.'' We haven't figured out how to cut through all of the resistance and get to real change. I'd love to find some way to put together that kind of a public-private joint, bipartisan experiment where we sort of liberated federal money in certain areas and allowed the local community to really use that money in a very targeted way to strengthen modeling off the best public schools, as you point out

Mr. Fattah. Mr. Speaker, could I ask you one quick question?

Mr. Gingrich. Sure.

Mr. Fattah. In all of your comments today, you have referred to inner-city schools. Is it your impression that the only schools that are not working are in large

Mr. Gingrich. No.

Mr. Fattah. urban cities, only poor children in our country are in inner cities?

Mr. Gingrich. Actually, you could make a fairly good argument that there's an even greater crisis on Indian reservations. There are areas in this country. There are some rural areas, and there are some suburbs.

But if you were to look at where would you if you look around the country at where parental choice tends to be focused I started out by citing Mayor Riordan, who said in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles, he believes, 12 percent of the kids are learning at the 8th grade level. I don't think there are many suburban school systems where you would have 12 percent of the kids at 18 reading at the 8th grade level.

Mr. Fattah. I would concur, but you would agree that there are inner-city school districts, suburban school districts, and rural school districts and that if we were looking for poor children, we could find poor children in larger quantities in rural school districts. And if schools are failing poor children in the inner city, I'm just trying to understand whether you think that these school districts in the rural communities are failing poor children there and whether or not

Mr. Gingrich. First of all, our concern is poor schools and the impact of poor schools on poor children, in particular, because rich children have a tendency to find alternatives on their own. Rich children and rich parents don't quite need the same

Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman?

Mr. Fattah. I totally agree.

Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman?

Mr. Fattah. I'm just saying that

Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman?

Mr. Gingrich. If I might, just for a second

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Speaker, if you would

Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman?

Chairman Riggs. hold for just a moment?

Mr. Roemer. Reclaiming my time.

Chairman Riggs. The gentleman's time has expired, and we're going to proceed.

Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to conclude on my time.

Chairman Riggs. The gentleman will suspend.

Mr. Roemer. I will.

Chairman Riggs. And the Subcommittee will be in order, and we will proceed under regular order. Mr. Fattah, you weren't recognized. Mr. Roemer, your time has expired.

Mr. Speaker, do you want to make

Mr. Gingrich. I will just close and say to Mr. Fattah I would be delighted to expand this dialogue to include the opportunity for parental scholarships for poor children anywhere where they seem to be trapped in poor schools. And if the statistical finding is that there are 20 counties that are rural that deserve to have this expert, I would be delighted to do that, if there are 20 counties that are suburban or if there are 20 counties that are urban.

I in no way was trying to imply that the only places children need help are in the inner city, although I did start by citing Mayor Riordan, who is particularly concerned about it. I would love to work in a bipartisan way, as Mr. Payne said and as Mr. Roemer suggested, on a joint public and school and parental scholarship bill that would contain both elements in one bill on a broadly bipartisan way. I think it would be a tremendous breakthrough for the country.

Mr. Roemer. Would the gentleman yield? Would the gentleman yield?

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I do want to tell you that I agree with you that we cannot afford to write off another generation of urban school children. It's time to put politics and ideology aside and put our children first. It's time to give choice a chance. And we thank you for being here today.

Mr. Gingrich. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. To Senators Coats and Moseley-Braun, we must apologize. We have a procedural vote on the House floor. It will take us just a few minutes to run over and vote. If you can remain, we will reconvene as soon as we can return from there.

Mr. Coats. Mr. Chairman, I'm not able to stay for that time. I have a hearing over in the Armed Services Committee in the Senate that begins at 10:00 that I have to be at. So I will remain.

Chairman Riggs. Senator Coats, I'd be happy to Mr. Coats. And we will keep the Subcommittee hearing so at least we can get to your testimony. Would that be possible?

Mr. Coats. I would be willing to stay if you can do that, but

Chairman Riggs. Okay. Well, members are advised, then, we're going to keep the hearing underway if they'd like to go vote and return. I'm going to remain so that we can go right to Senator Coats and then Senator Moseley-Braun for their testimony.

Mr. Coats. I intend to be very brief because I don't want to repeat what the Speaker said. He has laid out I think and articulated very well a good record as to why we ought to at least proceed with an experiment to see if this option worked.


Mr. Coats. Let me just start by saying that I am a product of public schools, my wife is a public school teacher, all of my children are raised in public schools. So I don't bring a bias of private schools.

However, we had the choice. We had the choice of sending our children to public school or if we were unhappy with that public school of sending them to a private school. We were happy with the public schools that our children attended.

That is a choice that is available to most Americans, but that's a choice that is not available to a glaring exception of Americans, primarily those from low-income areas, whether they're suburban, urban, or rural. They're mostly, I think the statistics will show, inner-city urban areas.

The question is: What hope can we offer to these children that are trapped in these failing schools? If you go and talk to children in these areas, you find that early on they all think that their way out of their poverty, their way out of their environment, is to become a sports star.

We wish that all children could achieve the success of Tiger Woods and Venus Williams and others, Michael Jordan. They all want to do that. But we know from some of our own sad personal experience that not all of us are as endowed physically as we would like to be and the chances of that are very slim.

What we then find is that children think that the only option open to them is drugs. And, unfortunately, far too many get involved in the sale and distribution of drugs as an attempt to earn income, to gain status, and particularly to gain a way out of their living situations.

My wife has tutored in Anacostia public schools. And one of her brightest students was murdered at the age of 12 because he happened to be given a little bit of cash to carry some drugs down the street.

The third option is education. Unfortunately, that option is failing a whole generation of children, as the Speaker has said. It's now been 14 years since the report "Nation at Risk'' came out. We have tried a whole number of different things and focused a great deal of public attention on the problem, but, sadly, we have failed to make any real dramatic changes in educational opportunities for low-income children.

Choice is not the only answer, but it is an option that I believe ought to be tried. This is increasingly becoming a bipartisan issue. Senator Lieberman and I, a Democrat from Connecticut, a Republican from Indiana, have sponsored the choice bill in the Senate that provides for a demonstration program.

My question to those who oppose it is: Why not try it? What are you afraid of? If it doesn't work, if what you say is true, we will have that evidence before us, and we can move on to some other option. But if it does show some promise, perhaps we can at least demonstrate that there are ways in which we can provide more opportunities for children.

Secondly, it also provides competitive pressure in the schools. Everything we develop we have a system that provides quality products at competitive prices in this country in just about every area except education. Public school monopoly has frozen a lot of bad practices and a lot of bad schools and condemned a lot of children to failing schools.

The competition, I believe, will improve public schools. And I think we're all dedicated to that. We know that we can't have a nationwide system of totally private schools to solve our problems. We have to improve public schools. The competition from private schools and providing choice will, I think, accelerate that process.

Finally, let me just say that while I support the Coverdell effort, it's a long-term effort and with a long-term solution to an immediate problem. We need to provide the wherewithal for parents to save funds so that they can have the choice of sending their children to school, but we also need to address the problem immediately. And I think the Coats-Lieberman proposals in the Senate and the Community Renewal Act, which the Chairman has been directly involved in and which I'm a proud sponsor of in the Senate, offers a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of choice. And I would hope this Committee and the House could join with the Senate in providing this choice.

Finally, let me just state that the suggestion that was made and briefly discussed with the Speaker of setting up a program whereby we take public 20 to 30 choice scholarship opportunities and try to identify 20 or 30 public inner-city schools serving low-income children and get the statistics matched on the equivalency basis and learn what those public schools are doing that other public schools aren't doing might enlighten us in terms of what we need to do in breaking the monopoly that the public education system has on schools and refuses to provide flexibility and to incorporate those success stories on a widespread basis.

And perhaps we can do two things here. We can give more opportunities immediately to low-income children, and we can improve public schools in low-income, under-served areas.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate very much the opportunity to come and share this testimony. I regret that I can't stay for the rest of your colleagues to answer questions, but I do have this our new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I need to be there. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you very much, Senator Coats, not only for your testimony this morning but for your outstanding efforts. I just hope we can get this done before you retire from the Senate.

Mr. Coats. I hope so, too. It would be a great legacy to carry that I was a small part of an effort to provide opportunities for young children that haven't had the same opportunities that we have had or our children have had.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you again.

Senator Moseley-Braun, thank you also for waiting. We very much appreciate it. I expect since this is just a single procedural vote on the House floor, most, if not all, of the members will be returning very shortly. Again, I don't know what your time frame is. If you would prefer to wait for their return, that would be fine we would be talking a couple of minutes or you may proceed.


Ms. Moseley-Braun. I want to thank the Chairman for your indulgence and for your staying on during the procedural vote and for this opportunity to testify. I would just as soon proceed

Chairman Riggs. Please do.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. because I have a schedule also.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you for being here.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. I want to thank you for the invitation to testify this morning and to join in this debate. Some of our colleagues today believe that one part of the solution to the challenge of public education facing our nation is to use vouchers to help defray the cost of sending children to private schools.

I could not disagree more strongly, Mr. Chairman. Whether it's called a scholarship, a chit, or a voucher, the fact of the matter is that a voucher, any voucher, proposal presumes that a market-based solution to the problems faced by public education will solve the problems that exist within our public education system. But I would point out that, by definition, markets have winners and losers, and our country cannot afford to have any losers in a game of educational roulette.

The fact is that public education or education concerns more than just individuals. It concerns our country, our community as a whole. It relates to the public good as well as to private benefit. And so quality public schools have shaped our democracy. They have created a strong middle class. They have propelled our nation to the top of the world's economic pyramid. The rungs of the ladder of opportunity for individuals have been crafted in the classroom. And so quality education for everyone is really an essential component of the meritocracy that is associated with America.

The reason that we have compulsory education in this country is not so that every child can get a good job by accessing a good education but so that all of our children can receive a quality education and that that benefits our total community. If our public schools are not meeting that challenge, then I think it is our responsibility to fix the schools, not to destroy them. And a federally funded voucher program would not in my opinion fix a single public school.

Vouchers necessarily, Mr. Chairman, benefit only a small percentage of students. Consider that there are roughly 46 million public school students and 6 million private school students. Any large-scale voucher program would overwhelm the private schools. While advocates claim that entrepreneurs would start up high-quality schools to meet that demand to provide the competition to the public school systems, I think we only have to look at what happened in the beginnings of federal or national support in higher education.

Using federal scholarships as operating funds, we saw a number of fly-by-night operators that opened up fraudulent private schools, and the Congress had to step in and to get involved in regulating what happened in higher education in order to protect the public's investment and the public's dollar. And so there is no reason to think based on that history, based on that experience, that the same thing would not happen with elementary and secondary schools.

Supporters of the voucher plans also claim that they will help the neediest children the most. I think in the first instance that one ought to be cautious in considering, reforming, or destroying an entire system, changing an entire system based on the experience of a minority of the population, particularly inasmuch as we at the national level contribute so little to elementary and secondary education. But I think, more to the point or as much to the point, our experience and research show otherwise, that vouchers do not, in fact, help the neediest children the most.

The researchers have concluded that academically and socially disadvantaged students are, in fact, less likely to benefit from school voucher programs. Voucher programs in Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Chile confirm this research. And they led to, in every instance where it was used; the vouchers led to, increased economic and social segregation. They widened the gap in the classrooms, as opposed to narrowing it. And I would commend that research to the Chairman.

In Chile, particularly, performance actually declined for low-income students. Any use of public funds for private schools requires that fewer resources, by definition, are devoted to the public schools. Since the vast majority of low-income students will remain in those public schools and the worst of those schools are obviously, for the most part, already under-funded, it makes sense to conclude that any diversion of resources from those schools would only hurt those children who remain in them the most.

It's been pointed out on several occasions that the federal government currently meets only about six percent of the cost of public education and that we do not even cover the costs of our mandated programs. I think that point is very, very well taken.

For us to further divert resources from what we are already not doing makes absolutely no sense at all. We are essentially talking about doing less than six percent for public education. And, again, given the national importance and the national impact of this issue, that, it seems to me, is absolutely counterproductive.

Transferring funds from public schools to private schools will not buy new textbooks for public school children, nor will it encourage better teachers to move to the public schools. And, frankly, a voucher will not fix a single leaky roof in a public school anywhere in this country. And so, again, this diversion of resources is counterproductive in my opinion and also in the opinion of researchers who have looked at this issue.

Mr. Chairman, supporters of private school vouchers claim that those schools are better managed, that they perform better, and they cost less than the public schools. The facts again suggest otherwise.

And while it is true and no one is here I, for one, certainly would not defend incompetent bureaucracies. No one does. The fact is that some schools are nonfunctional or inefficient. And there are bad teachers, but the majority of teachers are good teachers and hard-working people. And they ought to get credit for their effort under very, very difficult circumstances.

Vouchers will not serve bureaucratic inefficiencies. Good management solves bureaucratic inefficiency. And the reference to Chicago I think has been made several times this morning. And I would point out that Chicago schools are benefiting from a renaissance of sorts because of the management, because of the leadership. With Paul Vallas at the helm of the schools, actual steps are being taken to make the investment to bring our public school system back up to the first-rate school system that it was once. Every mismanaged school system in the country should have its own Paul Vallas, its own strong leadership, not a voucher program, as a response to management inefficiencies.

Again, looking at the management track record of school systems that have tried the voucher system, it's again shown that the voucher system has not overcome mismanagement in any school system. And I would point again to the City of Milwaukee and its experience there as proof of that particular pudding.

Finally, well, not finally. As for cost, Mr. Chairman, private schools can charge less because, again, only 17 percent of those schools provide special education. We know that it costs at least twice as much to educate disabled children.

Many of the private schools also limit admission to students with good academic records, and they don't have to accept disruptive students. These selective admissions policies mean that, again, under a voucher program, support would be given to those schools that limit who they admit, as opposed to those that universally accept all students who want to come. And so, again, if the private schools were required to accept everyone, as our public schools are, then they would probably have the same costs as our public systems do.

Mr. Chairman, here in the District of Columbia and in all cities, many businesses and apartment buildings hire private security guards to supplement security because they don't believe that the police, the public police, if you will, can do an adequate job in protecting them. The question then becomes: Should we skim money off of what we give to the police departments so we can provide the vouchers to businesses to hire private security guards or would those funds be better spent improving the quality of the police force for an entire community? I think the analogy should be evident. We would be better off providing support and considering real reforms that will improve the educational opportunities in our public school system for all children.

For example, the General Accounting Office found that we have let our public schools fall into $112 billion worth of physical disrepair. Our crumbling schools are negatively affecting student achievement. If we fund or help state and local governments fund repair of the infrastructure, we will be taking a constructive step toward improving quality education.

The Speaker in his last remark said he wanted to speak to the Mayor of Chicago about what had been done. I would point out that in today's paper in Chicago, the Mayor of Chicago is focusing in on infrastructure and rebuilding the school. He's having to do it from local property tax revenues, however, because we have not yet stepped up to the plate to provide any assistance to state and local governments here at the national level.

I want to conclude, Mr. Chairman, though, by making an observation that I think has to be made about this debate. And that gets to the essential nature I think of the whole question of whether or not we should spin off money, particularly federal money, to help support what's called choice or scholarships or a voucher approach to funding education.

I want to suggest to the Chairman that, really, the notion that we cannot fix our public system and that we should abandon it in favor of a private system or private choice really is a pessimistic capitulation to what I think is a winnable challenge.

I submit that it is inappropriate for us to give up on our children and to give up on the optimistic vision that this nation can provide quality education to all children, to give up on the notion that we all as Americans have an investment in seeing to it that every American child receive a quality education that is free and that is accessible to them.

That is essentially the vision that underscored public education in the first instance. And all the debate around the voucher proposals and the scholarship proposals suggest that that vision no longer is relevant for our times, that we have to give up on it, and that we have to turn our backs on it.

Let me submit that vouchers are not the way to expand opportunity, indeed, they restrict it, and that, in any event, by taking this approach, we are essentially abandoning, again, an optimistic vision of our nation that says that we can meet this challenge.

Previous generations met the challenge of providing education to every American. That's how the American dream was achieved. That's what gave rise to the American meritocracy. They were able to step up to the plate to meet the challenges.

And I submit to you that for all the failures of the system, for all the bureaucratic hurdles, for all of the problems, they're all problems that we can, working together in the interest of our national community, resolve and challenges, problems that we can fix and challenges that we can resolve.

I submit and I suggest that we will be better off looking at those approaches to supporting quality public education that will inure to the benefit not just of our generation to the children that are in the public school system now but to the next generation as well. And, with that, Mr. Chairman, I'd be prepared to respond to any questions you may have.


Chairman Riggs. Thank you very much, Senator.

I want to commend you for your efforts to draw attention to the infrastructure needs of our nation's schools, but I also want to respond to some of the points that you made in your testimony.

I am looking at a study that shows that Catholic schools in the inner cities tend to be more, not less, integrated across lines of race and ethnicity. Yet, in a 1993 New York State Department of Education report, Catholic schools with similar demographics to public schools outscored those public schools by 17 percent in 3rd grade reading, by 10 percent in 3rd grade math, by 6 percent in 5th grade writing, and by 11 percent in 6th grade math. And I'm wondering: Why do you think that is?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. I think it's very clear why that is, and it has to do with the exclusivity of enrollment. It has to do with the fact that Catholic schools have more latitude, parochial schools and private schools have a great deal more latitude in determining which students they will admit and which students they will keep. They also have much more latitude with regard to discipline in the classroom.

And so the fact that a school can say to the bad actors or, alternatively, to the children who are disabled or to those children who have difficult home situations "Go somewhere else'' helps their test scores.

Chairman Riggs. It's going to be interesting to watch what happens, especially in New York City, where 23,000 families applied for 1,000 privately funded scholarships or vouchers that are being distributed on a lottery basis with preference to students in the city's lowest-performing schools based on rankings by the New York City Board of Education. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens when those kids come into the Catholic schools and how they compete when compared with their peers in public schools.

I also want to make the point about Milwaukee and Cleveland because I submit to you that we have I think conflicting data and conflicting opinions about what those limited experiments in school choice have shown to date. So I think, at worst, the jury is still out.

But here's the New York Times, not exactly a conservative publication, editorializing recently. They say, "After three years, students who chose private schools'' this is in the five-year-old Milwaukee school choice program "scored five percentage points higher on math achievement tests. After four years, the gap widened to almost 11 percent. And reading scores are moving in the same direction, though the differences are less pronounced.'' Here's how the Times concluded their editorial, and I quote, "The Milwaukee data should serve notice on the teachers' unions and large urban districts everywhere that if schools do not improve quickly, vouchers could become irresistible.''

So I would submit to you that the New York Times editorial would tend to contradict at least some of your testimony, where you contend that the Milwaukee and Cleveland school choice demonstrations have been failures or have not produced results to date.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me respond in this way. There is no question but that this idea has popular appeal. In fact, that's why we're having this hearing. It sounds good.

But I would submit to you and I think the data will show upon examination that what we're essentially talking about is educational triage. We're talking about skimming the cream off the top and allowing those children, those families who have the wherewithal already to self-select. I mean, that's essentially what you're talking about. And obviously those children who are in families who are engaged and involved and committed and concerned about their education are going to do better in whatever circumstance that you put them. That they are given an opportunity to go to a school of other go-getters is not surprising.

The question becomes: Have we decided, and, again, this gets to the pessimism versus the optimism, the vision that underscores the approach here, that we can afford any losers in a game of educational roulette in this country? Have we decided that we are prepared to triage the bottom, that we are prepared to take in those instances where the children are disabled or their parents are not engaged, the children whose families are dysfunctional or from broken homes or who live in foster care or whatever, are we prepared to say as to these young people, they will be relegated to what is left on the table, what's left over after we have allowed those who have the energy and the experience and the inventiveness to go off and do something else?

That is the essential genius of the public educational system, that it was a system of quality education for every child, not just for some children. And I fear that by taking this approach, we may be abandoning that essential concept. I say let's fix it, as opposed to dumping it. Let's repair and reform public education, as opposed to allowing it to be torn asunder.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Senator.

Mr. Martinez? Let me advise members that we're going to Senator, do you want to stay for Mr. Martinez's questions?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Oh, I'm so sorry.

Chairman Riggs. I'm sure other members have questions and comments for you, too.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Absolutely.

Chairman Riggs. But let me advise members that we're going to strictly enforce the five-minute limit.

Mr. Martinez?

Mr. Martinez. Was it something I said?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. No, not at all.

Chairman Riggs. I know she just jumped up when

Mr. Martinez. I think the theme of your message is pretty much the theme the people, at least on this side of the aisle, feel about this whole situation, the question of vouchers. The funny thing is and I've said this a lot of times, and I'll say it again my dad used to say that figures don't lie. He said the only problem is prevaricators of the truth often do lie.

And I have found through city government I was on a local city council. I was on a planning commission. And I was on a state assembly. And I've seen at every level of the government where people take figures and derive what they want to derive from those figures. It's the old question of half full/half empty.

One study will show something we have a study that shows that only about, in the public schools, 43 percent of the public school enrollment is minority. In California, it's slightly higher than that. And then only about 22 percent are actually in the private schools. So clearly the private schools are taking less of the minority students. And as far as the children, poor children, the figures are the same. Only 12 percent of poor children are enrolled in private schools.

So you can do anything you want with figures, and that's not the point. The point is and the question really is where our problem is. And the problem is making sure that every kid that goes to school, to every school, that that school provides a quality education.

I said earlier and I think you heard it that my kids, I gave them choice and I always had choice. For people of my income level, we've always had the choice. It's the poor kids that don't have the choice. And they're the ones that we really need to concentrate on because that's who the school system is failing.

Would you care to elaborate on that?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. I want to thank the ranking member and thank you for your comments. I agree, but I would caution in one regard. It's interesting to me that a lot of this debate has talked about the interests of poor children.

I would point out that public education is not just for poor children. In fact, if anything, one of the geniuses of the system in this country when we first developed a system of public education was that it was the first time that public education had been made available across economic and social lines. That allowed, therefore, for the kind of social and economic integration in the classroom that helped to build a middle class in this country.

It's interesting when you think about the word "integration'' in the context of that. One of the problems that we have is that the classroom represents a place where we not only have economic integration and social integration but racial integration as well.

And I would remind the Committee that a lot of the movement out of the public school system started with the beginning of desegregation in this country back after following Brown versus Board of Education. That's a fact. I mean, that's an irrefutable fact. So the question is: How do we bring those strings back together?

Instead of just saying we want to have a school system that's going to, well, serve the poor, that's not the issue, we want a school system that's going to, well, serve every child. If anything, we want to raise the standard, raise the quality, and not allow it to drift to the bottom and not allow it to, if you will, be triaged so that all that's left is the poorest of the poor and we're trying to make do for them.

Mr. Martinez. Well, I agree with you. And earlier I had said that we ought to be concerned with the quality of education of all children, not just the poor.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Absolutely.

Mr. Martinez. And you're absolutely right. The only way we're going to do that is an integrated system and improving that system.

You spoke earlier about the Catholic schools and the latitude the Catholic schools have in regards to their admissions, who they do admit and who they don't admit. My kids, like I say, all five of them went to parochial school. And one of the things that we had to do when we entered our children in the parochial school is sign an agreement that we would participate in every aspect of that child's education all the way through.

Now, no public school does that. But here lately public schools have been trying to get as much participation they have for years and years, but now they're really, really going after participation of the parents because without the participation of the parents in that school, your child is not going to be doing that well.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. I would concur also. And another point that I think has to be made here is that there is no substitute for parental involvement, and there is no substitute for local involvement, local control over what happens in a given school in a classroom. The point I think has to be made that by having an engaged leadership, both by the parents and by the community, that that is the key to the kind of reform that our school systems need to have, as opposed to, again, dismantling it and allowing the system to just implode, as is being suggested.

Mr. Martinez. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Martinez.

Senator Moseley-Braun, before you have to leave, I believe Chairman Goodling has a comment he would like to make.

Mr. Chairman?

Mr. Goodling. I just wanted to tell you I certainly appreciated your responses to the questions. I wish I could get the Congress as actively involved in trying to get rid of the rules and regulations that public schools have to live by that come from the federal level. I wish I could get the Judiciary Committee to give them some help in relationship to discipline. And I think we could do a lot to solve many of the problems that are out there facing the public school.

And, of course, parental involvement is something we can't force in a public school setting. You can in the private school setting by merely saying, "Your child doesn't come if you don't participate.'' You can't do that in a public school setting.

So I appreciate your response to the question.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Peterson?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. That was very kind. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, Mr. Chairman, let me say this in response. I hope that we can have a bipartisan, a cooperative approach to looking at some of the very issues you raise. I mentioned unfunded mandates. When I first got to the Congress, to the Senate, coming out of state and local government, I raised the issue of unfunded mandates. When you consider that at the national level, we're only paying for about six percent of the cost of education, that doesn't even pay for what it is that we're mandating be done at the state and local level.

And so I think we really should take a look at how we can bit by bit, piece by piece take a look at the regulations, scrape away the bureaucratic barnacles that are hindering this ship from providing quality public education to all American children who need it.

Chairman Riggs. I appreciate those comments. And I would judge from your comments that you are a supporter of charter schools.

Mr. Peterson?

Mr. Peterson. Yes. Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your testimony. I just wanted to ask you two questions.

First, I guess it's my belief that America is what it is today because we have been a very competitive nation. I mean, everywhere we've excelled, it's because we competed with each other and that's why we've competed with the whole world successfully. And we're doing that right now in a lot of areas.

In education, I have found the most entrenched bureaucracy, whether it's higher education, basic education, this is how we do it. This is the system. I guess it seems like to me you're writing off the competitive factor.

I think the whole theory of giving people choice and you talked about triaging and we're only going to end up with the poorest, but the theory here is that affluent Americans have the ability to make the choice now because they use their resources. We'd like to give poor Americans the chance to make a choice.

And I would think that some of these school boards and some of these administrations, who are so stuck in the mud of doing it like they've been doing it for a long time, when they start to lose blocks of students because poor as well as affluent have choices, they will change how they do business.

And I think you're kind of writing off that whole concept of: How do you change the administrators and the school boards from their rigid past as you give the students and the parents choice?

Now, it's not a silver bullet, but it seems to me that if we allow at all economic levels people to make choices, we will then change the decision-makers, who are making the wrong decisions today into making the right decisions so they compete and so they don't lose those students.

Would you react to that?

Ms. Moseley-Braun. You know, I'm reminded of that notion that everything I knew I learned in kindergarten or that little book. Competition isn't everything. There's also cooperation. There's also collaboration. There's also working together. And some goals cannot be achieved by simply saying, "Pit interests against each other.''

Some goals are only achieved by a collaborative effort. Education is one of those goals, the reason being, again, that it's not just a matter of the individuals' benefit, whether or not a child gets a good education and can get a good job, et cetera. It's not just as the interest of every child that's involved here. It is the interest of all of us as a community that's involved here because we know I mean, the numbers tell us, that educational performance relates directly, correlates directly, to just about every other indicia of social well-being from participation in our democracy to health status to jail statistics. Everything is related to education. So, as a community, we have an interest in seeing to it that every child has a chance to succeed to the extent that his or her talent will allow.

Having said that, that, then, suggests that the model for education has to be a mix of collaboration, of cooperation, and competition. And where I think we have lost sight here is that the bureaucracies, if you will, the rules have gotten layered one on top of the other. And that's why I refer to this proposal as essentially a pessimistic one.

Our response is these layers of bureaucracy are so entrenched there's nothing we can do but abandon public education. There's nothing we can do but to get rid of the collaborative model, to get rid of the cooperative model, and to move more in favor of one that says competition will answer this question.

I submit to my colleague that it's not just a matter of competition for competition's sake. If anything, what we want to do is, again, to scrape away the bureaucratic barnacles, to allow for reform, real reform, to allow for a new paradigm, to use that word, to be developed between state and local and national government.

I, for example, have called for more involvement at the national level in funding elementary and secondary education. Where do we get off having even this debate when we're providing only six percent of the cost and we're looking to the property tax to support this? We still tie educational finance to property wealth.

And so because we are kind of in one of these transition periods moving from a time when the link between property wealth and educational finance was appropriate to today, moving from a time when the model of the governance models that we had in place made sense to today, that transition is what we are facing.

And I submit and I suggest that we ought to again believe in ourselves a little more, believe that we can fix the system and provide quality education to every child in America who wants one.

Mr. Peterson. My time is up. I just want to make one statement. I don't think we'll have the success unless we have the cooperation, the collaboration, and the competition, which will force people to collaborate, will force people to cooperate. If you're not going to lose, you're not going to change.

There are a lot of bureaucracies out there that are so stuck in how they've been doing it, and they're not going to change until they lose something. Then they'll change to get it back or to keep from losing any more.

I think the cooperation and collaboration will not do it without the competition. That's just my theory.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.

Now, Senator, with your indulgence, what I'd like to do is recognize one more member on this side as we're trying to have a balanced and fair hearing. But I want to point out that the majority leader and our other colleagues who are scheduled to testify are waiting patiently.

And I'd also like to remind members that they're obviously able to yield their time if they don't want to use it or all of it, but by our list, we have Ms. McCarthy next to be recognized.

Ms. McCarthy, you're recognized. And then we're going to go to the majority leader and our other colleagues for their testimony.

Ms. McCarthy. Thank you, Mr. Riggs.

I'm sorry that we actually just can't sit around and actually talk about this, instead of being on timing.

I come from a suburban area. I have good schools. I also have some bad schools. And I happen to believe in you and what you're saying. Competition is good. But I see property taxes where Garden City pays a lot of money and they've got a great school system. Five minutes from there, I have Roosevelt School, which the state had to take over.

I also have great Catholic schools. And there is no room in any of the Catholic schools for someone to come in. In the lottery that you're talking about in New York, I think it's wonderful that the diocese is taking 1,000 students. But, even with that 2,000-something that you had mentioned

Chairman Riggs. Would the gentle lady yield? It's over 23,000 families applied for the 1,000 means-tested, privately funded scholarships.

Ms. McCarthy. And those are the motivated parents. So let's hope those motivated parents will try and change their school system because they're the ones, I believe, that can do it because, believe me, if you ever came to our PTA meetings, I mean, it's holy heck. It's holy heck. And that's what it comes down to: the parents.

And we can't force the parents because a lot of them have jobs. A lot of them are trying to feed their children. That's the problem.

Just one other quick thing. Right before recess, I spent two hours with the DC police, riding around DC, block upon block upon block of projects. When I got out of that car, where do we start? Where do we start? We start with education. I believe that we have to educate every single child, every single child. And that's what we have to fight for.

And I fear with the vouchers, that we certainly should give children every chance, but what about the suburban schools? Everyone keeps forgetting about the suburban schools that have urban problems. And that's something that I will be fighting for here in Congress.

The suburban schools do have urban problems. We're seeing more and more of it. And it's not just the education. It's the drugs. It's the violence in the school. Those are the things we have to attack continuously, and some of the parents don't know how to do it.

Mr. Fattah. Would the gentlewoman yield for a second?

Ms. McCarthy. Certainly.

Mr. Fattah. I'd like to also thank you for your leadership in the area of education because you really were the first to bring forth the whole notion in terms of renovation and reconstruction of public schools, of buildings falling apart. All over the country, we're building jails and letting our schools fall apart. As a nation, that doesn't go well for our future.

I was very interested in your comments about public school finances because we really are not a player as a federal government in financing education. States finance education. And, in that, in your state and my state and in most states throughout this country, there is not an equal playing field. That is to say that in the richest school districts in my state, we're spending two and three and four times the amount of money as we're spending per child in the poorest school districts. And that is the case in Illinois, in Texas.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's a story about a lawsuit that's been filed and the final arguments were held yesterday by 195 rural school districts in my state, who have said that they have the worst schools in the state because the state is cheating them through this financing system of being able to provide an education to the degree that that education is being provided in some of our wealthiest suburban school districts.

And I'd be interested in hearing your brief comments on that. As we do know, the majority leader

Ms. Moseley-Braun. And I will briefly respond.

The only way that America is going to remain the greatest country in the world in the next century is if we have the most educated workforce in the world. And given the changes of technology and given the changes in our economy, that is going to require that every worker have a high level of skills, a level of skills that can only be gotten through a quality education. The question becomes, How do we get there?

We cannot get there based on a financing model that we have inherited from the Nineteenth Century, a financing model that ties educational finance to local property wealth. The model that was predicated on an agrarian society is not going to serve a technological age. And the only way that we are going to meet the economic challenges of the technological age, the information age that we're in is if we begin to address the financing issues as well as the governance issues.

One of the big problems with this debate and I'll conclude with this whole voucher issue, one of the problems is that it suggests that if you can't fix the governance, then let's just ditch the finance issues and move on, let somebody else figure it out.

I submit that we can fix this problem and that we have the capacity in our generation to reform public education in ways that will serve the interests of every American child and will serve the interests of our country as a whole. That is the challenge. And it will address the issue of suburban schools that Congresswoman McCarthy raises, the issue of inner-city schools, the issue of rural schools as well if we can get at the heart of the issues, both with regard to finance and with regard to governance, that this change in our society poses us. And I

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Senator. You've been very generous with your time. I think what we're saying is let's at least have a national experiment. So I hope you can find your way to support that experiment should legislation come to the Senate floor. But thank you again for all of your time this morning.

Ms. Moseley-Braun. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Leader, will you come forward, please?

Majority leader of the House of Representatives, of course, is Dick Armey. And we look forward to his testimony. We're just going to proceed with the majority leader. And then we'll have our other colleagues join him.

Mr. Leader, please proceed with your testimony.


Mr. Armey. Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding these hearings. And I want to, if I may, thank you, in particular, Mr. Chairman, for your cosponsorship of my legislation to provide school choice for the children of DC I know you are joined in that effort by Congressman Flake, from whom you will hear in a moment.

I have a prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. And, with your permission, I would ask to put it in the record.

Chairman Riggs. Of course. Without objection.



Mr. Armey. I am in the mood to speak on this subject, as it were, from my heart. Here I am a congressman from Dallas, Texas, and I spend an enormous amount of time these days trying to raise money for scholarships for children in Washington, DC, children whose families I will never know, children from whose families I will never ask for a vote. I work, along with Congressman Floyd Flake and yourself, to provide a larger range of scholarship options for these children.

There is only one reason I do this, Mr. Chairman. It's because I love the children. I'm not working for their parents. I'm not working for the city. I don't care about the state in this matter. And I'm not that interested in the schools or the institutions. I profoundly and deeply believe schools are for children. Everything that is done, each resource that is provided, each person that is employed, must be directed at no purpose other than the children.

I want to take a moment to compliment, we all know, we have all had in our own lives, dedicated and loving teachers who fend for us, each and every one of us, separately and inspiration and encouragement and sometimes unnecessary discipline. And we can all name those teachers.

I don't want any doubt about it. The respect and admiration I hold for the majority of people involved in education in America today know no bounds. But what we have is an institutional failure.

It is the institutional structure that is collapsing around these children and failing them and harboring people in the school system with what must be I think recognized by us as sacred an obligation as you can have. And if you can find one more sacred on this Earth than the responsibility that may be trusted to you to care for a young child's mind and development, then you tell me what it could be.

We have what are known as "slackards" that are harbored in these institutions today. They demoralize their colleagues, and they fail the children. And they should not be continued. And the reason they can continue is a lack of accountability. They are not held accountable. And their principals are not held accountable. The superintendent is not held accountable. And so they stay there.

I remember when my wife quit teaching and her principal tried and tried to talk her out of it. And she was so discouraged because of the effort that she was making in the sense that it was being undone in the classroom right next to her by the unfortunate fact that a teacher stayed there that shouldn't be there. And the principal looked at her with a sadness in his eyes. And he says, "You know, Susan, what breaks your hearts, it's the good ones that leave.''

What we're looking for is a way to recapture what we once had. There was a time when American education of American children was the envy of the entire world. And I believe that it was the envy of the entire world simply because people made choices.

And make no mistake about it. Parents love their children more than anybody else can love their children. Parents will do more for their children. And when we had locally controlled, locally run schools where the parents got together and they elected a school board and when that school board, knowing they were accountable to those parents, whom they knew in their communities to be the ones who would put them in office, got together and hired a superintendent, you had an accountability that was there.

Somehow or another, the institutions, the large institutions, teachers' unions, the federal government, the Department of Education, institutions that were aloof and remote, gained more and more control. They began to disenfranchise the parents.

School choice is about putting resources and options directly back into the hands of the parents so that they can very intimately and very immediately hold failing schools accountable. If this school does not serve my child well, I will take my child and leave and go to another school that does so better. It's not just simply a question of choosing between a public school option or a private school option.

In my own experience with my own son Chip all of my children, by the way, were educated in public schools. But Chip was not receiving what he should have received in the school, in which we lived in the district. We moved him to another district. I had the money to pay the tuition. And, yes, there was a tuition fee that I had to pay in exercising the option to take my child from one public school and put him in another. I could afford that.

Chip was happy. I believe he's more successful than he might otherwise have been. I was lucky. I could afford to do that for him. He was lucky. He chose his parent well. And it worked out fine for Chip.

But why should he have had one moment's option more than another child or any other child? And that's what the school choice is all about. It's about each and every child and each and every parent being respected in the responsibilities they have for their children, the love they exercise for their children, the hopes they have for their children so that they can look at their child and say, "I, too, have the resources to move my child to a better place of education.''

This idea is tested. It's not an abstraction. It's tested in the lives of real people. Here in Washington, DC, we have the Washington Education Foundation that provides scholarships to about 250 needy families. They can go to a private school option at $3,200 here. The organization provides half the scholarship, and the parents provide the rest.

And I've met these parents. The other night I met a 19-year-old single mother. And there is nothing that she will fail to do to give her child better than what she got.

I have a friend, a neighbor, who is very active, involved in prison ministry. And he says, without exception, in the prisons around DC, you're finding the failures of the DC school system.

His latest project, where he is working with an inmate who has a high school degree from this city teaching the young man to read out of elementary school reading primers, this school system in this city failed that young man and is no less responsible for him being there. That young man probably had dedicated teachers that he encountered along the way, but they, too, felt overwhelmed by the system.

We can tell these stories time and time again. And it's not just a matter of stories. It's statistics. But the greatest evidence you see of the importance of school choice is when you ask the families of America. It polls as high as anything in every community in America and always more so in the poorer communities than in the wealthier communities because in those communities, more than anything else, the only hope they have for their children is education. And they know it more clearly, oftentimes out of their own understanding of the hardship that exists in their own life for having not had the education they want for their children.

What we're saying here with education choice, don't use federal government power, federal government money, federal government influence, federal government control to prop up institutions that are already failing children across this country. More is not always better than less.

A perfect definition of insanity is to do more of the same thing and expect a different result. Let's try something different. Let's try something that appreciates, respects, and honors these parents' love and commitment to these children. Let's dare to trust the parents, and let's use our resources to give the parents that freedom to choose for their children. And let the competition ensue.

I have said and I have been an advocate of school choice at a public school level for as many families as we can afford at every income level and in every community. Institutionally, the first, best beneficiary of school choice will be the public school system when they are forced by the accountability to which they're held by the parents themselves to be competitive, to ferret out bad teachers, to ferret out ineffective curriculum, to ferret out failed ways, and to find a way to hold their students.

We have already seen this in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where the schools are saying, "We've got to improve to attract the students back.'' It's very simple business. It says very simply: Honor, if we will, with the resources of the people of this great nation the love that those people have for their children and believe in the parents, who know their children.

I'll finish with one great story. One of my colleagues from the Senate was in a heated debate with a person who represented one of these institutions of control that's failing so badly. And she indignantly told the senator, "Well, Mr. Senator, I think you should understand I love your children just as much as you do.''

He quite respectfully asked, "Well, yes. Well, what are their names?'' And that's the difference. The parent loves the child, in reality. The other is a love in the abstract. These children deserve to be more than just abstractions. They are very real, and they are very precious.

Thank you for letting me be here.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Leader, for a very, very powerful and moving testimony.

This is another procedural vote to adjourn on the House floor. I intend to keep the Subcommittee in session so we can go forward with our hearing, but I'm advising colleagues if they'd like to go vote that they have that opportunity and then can return. We look forward to their testimony.

Hopefully the majority leader can stay for a few minutes and respond to questions and comments.

Mr. Armey. Mr. Chairman, I have two impulses that are moving me, literally. And that is I do have another engagement. And I have so much regard for my colleagues behind me, who have been so patient, that I wonder if I could offer to respond to questions that you might send me.

I feel a little bit at a loss. You know, they say it's not good to eat and run. I suppose it's not good to speak and run.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Leader, if you could permit, then, could we take one

Mr. Armey. One each, yes.

Chairman Riggs. member from each side.

Mr. Armey. Again, my colleagues, again, I want to again appreciate.

Chairman Riggs. Let me

Mr. Armey. Are they leaving?

Chairman Riggs. I see that Congressman Flake and Congresswoman DeLauro left. I don't know if Congressman Watts is going to

Mr. Armey. Let me, then. If I think I can serve a purpose, then, to keep the operation moving without further trespass on their rights, I'd be happy to.

Chairman Riggs. Yes. I think that will be fine.

Mr. Greenwood?

Mr. Greenwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Leader, thank you for your excellent testimony. Could you just take a couple of moments and describe for this Committee what you think the legitimate federal roles might be in the issue of school choice?

Clearly we have your bill, which I've just asked my staff to put me on as a cosponsor, within the District of Columbia. We have talked when the Speaker was testifying about the potential use of Title I funds on an experimental or pilot basis.

In my own State of Pennsylvania, Governor Ridge tried very hard twice to get our legislature to move to a school choice option and didn't succeed. I assume, knowing of your strong commitment to states' rights that you consider this to be fundamentally an issue that will be played out in the state capitals.

But if you could just lay out what other roles, besides this particular H.R. 1797, you see as federal roles?

Mr. Armey. If I may, first of all, I guess I'm still in this mood to speak from my heart. I have not a moment's doubt that legislative efforts at the state or local level to have school choice are thwarted for one reason and one reason only, and that is the teachers' unions. They're powerful and they're ruthless and they're protecting their turf. And, obviously, we would expect them to do no other. It is not a failure on their part to do so. It is a failure on the part of legislators to rise above that.

Here in the city, we have a provision in the appropriations bill that says: Let federal funds be used from $7 million the first year to up to $10 million for scholarships, up to $3,200 for families. We have over 60 schools in the City of DC that are all indicating their willingness and their ability to take additional children where you could attend for $3,200.

Additional consideration is $500 for tutoring, people who may choose to keep their children in the same school but would like to hire tutors. That's probably not enough. We have private efforts, as you know, going on here in DC, where we have 250 scholarships provided by the Washington scholarship fund, and some 700 students in waiting on that.

My own view is that the federal government could probably do a good deal to help provide resources, but the federal government tends to get too much involved with trying to control things at the local level.

I am profoundly convinced that education is best handled at the local level and even the state level. It's an occupational hazard of governance. You know the old adage in my discipline of economics is that division of labor works only if people mind their own business. Unhappily, governments exist for the purpose of minding other people's business. And so they don't find themselves easily constrained.

The federal government I think should properly assume the role of support to the state and the local community, rather than definer of educational programs and plans in the communities. And I think we do have the ability to provide resources.

I am acutely aware. I have rural areas in my State of Texas. I grew up in the rural State of North Dakota. There are some communities, especially in the rural areas, where the property base just simply doesn't support schools. And perhaps the federal government making block grants to the poorer school districts of America could be an enormous help.

We know, though, in the final analysis that money is not necessarily the answer. I think the per-pupil expenditure in Washington, DC is as high as any place in the nation. And there's one study that points out that the closer you are to the Canadian border is a better measure of how well your children will do in school than the per capita expenditure. So it seems to me it really does get down to this question of institutional restraint and institutional responsibility at the appropriate level with the appropriate involvement of the parents.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Greenwood.

Mr. Martinez?

Mr. Martinez. I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have one quick statement to make, and then I'm going to yield to Mr. Fattah.

Your last statement about money is not the answer, I agree, but the interesting thing with this proposition of vouchers is that if the federal government gave vouchers, they would be giving federal tax dollars to an individual to send his kid to a private school. And I imagine that would be in the neighborhood of $3,000, would you say?

And so if you took $3,000 of the average tuition, or the average cost of public education is $8,000, and 3,000 of 8,000 is 28 percent, so you're now going to provide that private school with 28 percent support for at least that student, but meanwhile, back at the farm, with the public system, where the kid is still in the public system and doesn't get this tuition, you're still only supporting 6 percent. Don't you see there's inequity there?

Mr. Armey. No, I do not.

Mr. Martinez. Well, there is because, you know, I've always said the federal government, for the kind of money we put into the local systems, we sure are demanding a lot of what they do.

That's not the real problem, though. State regulations are the real problem for most states. But, having said that, I think that if we are going to be concentrating on anything, we ought to be concentrating on all students at every school.

You know, I was against bussing. But you know why I was against bussing? Because all the money that it costs to bus kids from one end of the town to the other, you could have spent that money improving that school, and you wouldn't have had to bus them anywhere because they would have gotten the quality education they needed right there in their own environment, where they were healthier than having been across town, where they were in a wanted, friendly atmosphere.

Mr. Fattah?

Mr. Fattah. Thank you. Thank you.

Mr. Armey. I might just mention to you, insofar as we take every dollar we can raise, state, local, and national, and it is put into the school for the benefit of the children, I'm for that. But if the money is going to be siphoned off to support the institutional structure around the child, then we've failed. Ninety percent of the money going into the classroom for the child, I'm for that. And I'm for as much money as I can get to that child.

Mr. Fattah. Mr. Leader, can I just thank you for your testimony and ask you I know that in economics, which is a subject you are quite familiar with, is this whole concept of laissez-faire, the notion of allowing things to go forward undeterred.

This issue of school choice would provide parents the freedom, obviously, to make more choices than they can make now and to put children in all types of private schools. And we would trust that their judgment would be in the best interest of the child. Do you think that there's any role or any concern that we should have in terms of the regulation of schools that would receive vouchers?

That is to say that to the degree that one might see the establishment of a David Duke academy or some other type of Koresh you had a situation in your home state where you might have circumstances where parents don't seem to be necessarily operating in the best interests of their child. And this voucher provides a wherewithal for kind of, rather than, as Senator Braun was talking about, the social integration of people from economic levels, ethnic, religious background, that what we see is more of a narrowing, if you will, of these various interests or even something worse than that.

I'd be interested in your comments as to what degree [Sic.]. I know conservatives have had some concern about enthusiastic support for vouchers because it may tend to lead at some point to government involvement in the operations of private or religious schools.

Mr. Armey. In the first instance, I believe that the parents [Sic.] should be given to the families, to the children. For example, when we had the GI bill, the grant was given to the GI’s coming back. Nobody worried about whether there would be a federal control of the schools or so forth. We have student loans, Pell grants today.

Furthermore, I should mention I went to a private Presbyterian college. It was clearly church-affiliated. We went to chapel every Thursday. And I went there with people on the GI bill. Nobody worried about Constitutional questions about that.

Now, the first

Mr. Fattah. Mr. Leader, you are aware that the Supreme Court has said that there's a difference when we're talking about minors versus adults.

Mr. Armey. I understand. I understand.

Mr. Fattah. There is a concern.

Mr. Armey. The first most important accountability, of course, is the parents. Second is every state has a right to set standards. And, of course, academic universities set standards for enrollment in the universities. But ultimately the family sets standards.

I'd like to illustrate this point with this; my first exposure to homeschooling came in the early '70s as a member of a college faculty, on a very liberal college faculty. I had all of my colleagues consorting themselves to homeschool their children because they were concerned the schools were not progressive enough. They wanted to keep their children at home, teach their children at home so they could teach their children about such things as sex education and multiculturalism and diversity and so on. I was a little amused by that. I was invited to join. And by comparison with their efforts, I thought the public schools were doing a fine job.

Well, my later encounter with school choice came in the mid '80s, where the public schools had caught up with the liberal professors. They had their children back in public school. And it was people with profound Christian convictions who were homeschooling because these schools had gotten too progressive. In either case, I profoundly believed the parents were the best judge of what they wanted for their children.

Now, had you said, "Dick Armey, intervene against the parents' right to homeschool their children,''

Mr. Fattah. I have no problem with homeschooling.

Mr. Armey. I would have stopped the professors.

Mr. Fattah. Yes. Mr. Leader, I was not making a comment about homeschooling.

Mr. Armey. Oh, okay. All right.

Mr. Fattah. That was not the question. And I'm sorry

Mr. Armey. So we have standards. I don't think David Koresh

Mr. Fattah. if you misinterpreted it.

Mr. Armey. probably would have been capable of putting together

Mr. Fattah. Well, I'm just going in my state. I'm sure that Texas is much more enlightened than my home state, but in my state, the school choice proposals as I've seen in every state where the legislation has been moved, it has talked about no regulations whatsoever for any of these schools. In fact, that's the whole promotion notion for vouchers that it would not be.

And then, as you're aware, this recent conflict discussion about whether at some future point there may be a need for regular but I wanted to ask you something about the opening part of your statement. You talked about your

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Fattah? Mr. Fattah?

Mr. Fattah. Yes?

Chairman Riggs. If you will suspend, sir?

Mr. Fattah. Yes.

Chairman Riggs. Your time has expired. And I want to announce

Mr. Fattah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. I want to announce to members that time has nearly expired in this procedural vote on the floor. Mr. Leader, if you want to vote, we need to excuse you at this point.

Mr. Armey. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Fattah.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. I would like to ask our colleagues from the Committee, Mr. Paul and Mr. Scott, to go ahead and take their places at the witness table so that we can proceed with your testimony. And you'll be joined upon their return by Congressmen Watts and Flake and Congresswoman DeLauro.

Gentlemen, thank you both for sort of reversing roles here. We appreciate your keen interest in this subject, which compels you to take the opportunity actually to testify as witness.

You obviously need no introduction. And so, gentlemen, whichever one of you would like to

Mr. Paul. And so we'll get none.

Chairman Riggs. proceed first. Mr. Paul, do you want to lead off? And then you'll be followed by Mr. Scott.

Mr. Paul. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I notice I'm sitting on the left. I don't know whether you did that on purpose or not.

I do have a prepared statement. I'd like it to be entered into the record if there's no problem.

Chairman Riggs. Without objection, so ordered.


Mr. Paul. I have a bill that I've introduced. It's called the Family Education Freedom Act. And it's a tax credit for families. I believe that this addresses the subject that we're all talking about today in a very serious manner and one that can do some real good.

Early in our history, as our country was expanding, there were no public schools sitting out there waiting. And generally what happened was several families would get together, usually six or eight, once they knew that they had enough children to be educated. And they would send back East for a teacher or sometimes even to Europe. They pooled their funds. They hired a teacher. The teacher came out.

The family and the parents controlled everything. They did not have regulations or rules about what was to be taught, whether or not they could say prayers, and whether or not they could teach character.

It seemed to work pretty well because as the West was studied, we found out that the children were pretty well educated. They had books on the classics. They learned different languages. And they did quite well. And it was usually under those conditions, not very expensive.

That principle I think is what we're trying to incorporate into some of our new legislation. We never want to go backwards, but there's no reason why we cannot cling to the truisms of the ages. And if freedom works and choice works, there's no reason why we can't work and do what we can to improve those conditions to allow our families those kinds of choices.

The bill that I have, I'd almost like to call it a consumer sovereignty act because what I'm doing is I'm delivering back to the consumer the total choice on how to spend the money. In a free market, the consumer is always the king, not the businessman, not the labor, not the labor unions, but the sovereign individual is the consumer because he can make or break any company. He has sovereign power over the economy if we had a marketplace.

I know we do not have that free market today. We have a relatively free market in other goods, but in education, there's essentially no sovereign power with the consumer. And this is the principle that we have to direct ourselves at, and this is the principle that I think everybody who has a different proposal is alluding to but not quite saying it. So we want the consumer to have sovereign power over each dollar.

The other programs and other suggestions made I believe come up short. Whether you use scholarships or vouchers, I think we're talking about more appropriations. And we're not lacking funds. There's no evidence whatsoever that we are lacking funds. We are lacking good choices and parental control.

When we set up a savings account, and I do happen to be a cosponsor of Speaker Gingrich's bill that doesn't go very far. The idea that we might get people to save money in order to earn interest that they don't have to pay taxes on I think is a weak dream. If that is passed, I do not expect it to work, although I will vote for it, hoping to move the agenda in that direction. Vouchers have too many shortcomings, would increase the cost and introduce the idea of controls and regulations.

If we had a savings account, the funds put into the savings account could be deducted; it would be a big help. So if we move in that direction, I surely would like us to talk seriously about deducting the funds we put into these savings accounts.

Now, mine more directly deals with tax credits. Now, this is talking about some real consumer sovereignty. If you spend anywhere up to $3,000, any family, they get all of their money back, their own money back. They're not getting government money. They get their own money back. This is a tax change, which is very regressive in nature.

If you have a family that pays $1,000 in taxes and decides to spend $1,000 on education, they get 100 percent reduction on their income tax. If you pay $100,000 in taxes and you take a $1,000 deduction, you get a one- percent reduction in your taxes. And up to $3,000, if a family pays $3,000 a year in taxes, they spend it on education, they get all of their own money back, not the government money. They get their own money back. So it's built in to benefit the poor.

I would like to, of course, encourage people to think seriously about this as we move along because hopefully, even this year, we will pass something, but we should do more. We have to give more benefits to the consumer; more control to the consumer, and more benefits to the family, and let the parents make the decision, not the government.

Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Paul.

I want to wait for Mr. Martinez to return because he mentioned earlier, he made a distinction between scholarships or vouchers, full parental choice, which he opposes, and a tax credit, which he says he supports. And you have testified along those lines. So I think it's important that we have a little discussion today about those apparent subtle differences between, again, vouchers or scholarships, on the one hand, and tax credits or tax deductions, on the other hand.

Congressman Scott?

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Mr. Scott. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and the members of the Committee. As a member of both the Education and Workforce Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I have concerns about these proposals, not only threatening our educational reform efforts, which will ensure that all children will be educated, but it also threatens the Constitutional wall between church and state.

At issue is whether vouchers will actually help improve the education of the children, whether they will discriminate on the basis of religion, disability, or gender, and whether there are other ways to better assist more children with the same amount of money.

At a recent hearing on childhood literacy, the Education Committee heard from witnesses from my hometown of Newport News in Virginia, in my district, and we were told about extraordinary efforts the public school system has put forward to improve its schools for all children.

The results included Magruder Primary School, a school at which 80 percent of its children are considered at risk, 50 percent of whom live in low-income housing. They improved their reading scores from just one percent of their second grade students reading at grade level in '91 and '92 to having 80 percent of their second grade students reading at or above grade level today.

What effort did it take? It took an additional $250,000 to help a student body of 424 students. Had we given a voucher of $3,500 to a few children to escape that school, that money would have only helped, if we assume vouchers help, only helped 69 students, or just 16 percent of the student body. Instead, at least 79 percent of that student body was helped to improve their educational performance without excluding children with disabilities, without excluding children because of their religion, and without excluding children based on their gender.

This is what our effort should focus on, improving educational opportunities for all children, not just a privileged few. And make no mistake about it. Unless we totally abandon the idea of public education, the vast majority of students will still attend public schools. So when you listen to these so-called polls, the polls don't ask the parents what they think of vouchers if they were told the truth, that their chance of getting a voucher and escaping the poor schools is only 10 percent, that they have a 90 percent chance of being left behind.

Mr. Chairman, we had a field hearing in 1995 where the Education Committee examined the City of Milwaukee's experience. We heard how a few families could be helped, but we did not hear much about those who would be left behind.

We estimated that the annual cost of providing a $3,000 voucher to 7 percent of Milwaukee's 100,000 school population was approximately $21 million. If we had used the $21 million for all 100,000 students in their school system, they could spend an additional 4 to 5 thousand dollars per classroom. Although there was significant satisfaction with the program expressed by those who had received the vouchers, the evidence was inconclusive as to whether the program significantly improved the education of the participants. But there was no question that diverting 4 to 5 thousand dollars per classroom cannot possibly help the 93 percent who would be left behind.

The Milwaukee school voucher program and many other proposals before us are limited to low-income students at this time. We should not, however, ignore political reality and suggest that this limitation will be permanent. As more and more public school students desert the public schools, more and more parents will demand vouchers so their children can also escape.

Furthermore, out of the 140,000 school-age children in Milwaukee, 40,000 already attend private schools. Their parents can reasonably be expected to demand tuition assistance in the future.

Once vouchers become commonplace and the public schools become worse than they are now, those demanding vouchers will obviously represent a much more powerful constituency than those left behind in the public schools. So the pressure on school budgets in the future will be for more vouchers, not for improved public schools.

This could have a devastating effect in Milwaukee. If all 40,000 students now in public schools received a $3,000 voucher, it would cost $120 million, or approximately 20 to 25 thousand dollars, that could be spent in each Milwaukee classroom.

Not only do all of the voucher proposals fail to assist the vast majority of children. All of them insulate private schools from fundamental equal protection areas in the area of civil rights. They do so by explicitly stating that government assistance in the form of scholarships or transportation assistance does not constitute federal aid to the participating schools. Therefore, the government could not regulate beyond the statute cited in the two bills.

For example, the American Community Renewal Act prohibits private schools from discriminating based only on race. A CRS report, therefore, concluded that a private school receiving public monies could discriminate based on gender, religion, disability, and it's not clear whether the schools could also discriminate based on national origin. These provisions should also be considered in light of the many studies of voucher programs that already show that school choice programs generally have the result of more segregation.

Furthermore, as private schools will continue to be able to discriminate based on a student's academic record and behavior; the public schools would be relegated to trying to educate the most difficult students, including the disabled, with less support.

In addition, the several bills have provisions, which allow funding for religious schools. I would only point out that this issue will subject those proposals to successful court challenge.

For those who offer vouchers to a select few students to escape dangerous schools or to escape schools where suspensions and expulsion rates are excessive, I would suggest that our efforts could be directed to replicating the efforts of Dr. McTaggert, the Principal of West Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa.

West Middle School has a student population of 650 students. Seventy-two percent of the students come from homes considered to be below the poverty line. The student population consists of 28 percent minority and 32 percent of students with disabilities. In the year prior to Dr. McTaggert taking over West Middle School, the school had 692 suspensions. Two hundred twenty of those involved disabled students. The absentee rate was 25 percent.

There were 267 referrals to juvenile authorities. In one year, the number of suspensions for non-disabled students went from 692 to 156 with only 7 resulting in out-of-school suspensions. The number of suspensions for disabled students went from 220 to zero. Juvenile court referrals went from 267 to 3.

We, therefore, face the question and have the choice of what to do with limited resources. Do we use limited resources to put computers in the classrooms? Do we hire more teachers, more reading specialists, and teacher aides? Do we give training to our educators or do we abandon the great experiment and ideal of universal education and give the privileged few vouchers so they can escape while a vast majority of students are relegated to bad schools getting worse?

I would urge my colleagues to have the political will to focus our efforts on initiatives, which will result in the improvement of education for all students. It is clear that Magruder Primary School in Newport News and the West Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa are examples of what our public schools could do if given enough resources and leadership. These results would be impossible if we siphon off precious resources to help the privileged few who might get a voucher.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Scott.

Congressman J. C. Watts and Congressman Floyd Flake along with our Committee colleague Jim Talent are the principal cosponsors of the bipartisan American Community Renewal Act. We're pleased to have them here today. Congressman Watts and Congressman Flake. Congressman Watts, why don't you proceed first with your testimony?

Mr. Watts. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


And let me say up front, Mr. Chairman, I have attended this is my third hearing on different committees that I have come before to testify concerning parental choice, school choice, the voucher system.

One of the arguments that I have heard to this point in every one of these hearings is the fact that or people say that you will take the best and the worst will be left behind. The best are already getting out of poor school systems.

And I would be willing to say to any of my colleagues, any of my 434 colleagues, in the United States House of Representatives that I would be willing to work with them to say, "Let's design a system that we take the lowest 10 to 20 percent and create a system for them. Let's forget about those that can afford it. I mean, those that can afford it, they're already getting out. It's those that can’t afford it that are left behind, just locked into the bad system. So let's create a system where we can take 10 to 20 percent of the worst, of the lowest producers, and let's create a system for them.'' And that's what this debate should focus on.

I want to thank the Chairman for holding these important hearings today. I know the goal and I share it along with every member of this Subcommittee and every witness today. The goal we all share is to do what is right for all America's children with regard to their most fundamental right as Americans: their right to a solid education.

For millions of young Americans, our school systems have achieved that goal primarily through the hard work of dedicated classroom teachers. These are the people who accept the challenge every day of educating our children.

I am forever grateful to the teachers who taught me the 3 R's and so very much more in the public schools of Eufaula, Oklahoma. And I am grateful to those who are teaching my children at this very moment back home in the public schools of Norman, Oklahoma. I know my kids are getting the best education possible, and I thank each one of their teachers for that.

The public schools have done a commendable job overall in guaranteeing this birthright of education to millions of Americans, but there have been failures, significant failures. And these failures, as we know, are concentrated in the schools of inner city America. There are tens of thousands of young Americans who are being cheated out of their birthright.

At this moment, when three of my children are sitting in a safe and disciplined classroom and learning their subjects in Norman, Oklahoma, at this very same moment, right down the street from us here in Washington, DC, not even 15 minutes from this Subcommittee room, there are parents whose children cannot learn their lessons because their schools and their school systems are literally collapsing. While my children are being prepared to succeed in life, their children are being prepared to fail. And that is why this morning's hearing is so important.

Parental choice is one of a number of proposals that are being advanced to return these rights to America's poorest children. And school choice, parental choice, the voucher system we cannot see in my opinion, I don't think we can look at that as the reform system. It should be an element of reform, an element of the equation. It is not the sole source of reform.

Along with my colleagues Floyd Flake and Jim Talent, we have incorporated a parental choice provision in our legislative initiative, H.R. 1031, the American Community Renewal Act. We believe very strongly that parental choice that encompasses public, private, and parochial schools can make an important contribution to the renewal of inner-city education.

We are not alone in this belief. In a recent national opinion poll, respondents were asked "Would you support a voucher system where parents could get money from the government to send their children to the public, private, or parochial school of their choice?'' Forty-eight percent responded yes, and 46 percent responded no. But when you look at the response from African Americans, those most affected by poor schools, you find that 57 percent responded yes and only 37 percent responded no. Even more interesting, African Americans in the 26 to 35-year-old age group, an age when you have children in elementary and secondary schools, among this group, the response was an outstanding 86 percent yes to 10 percent no.

The bottom line to these numbers tells us clearly that those parents who are most affected by failing schools are the most supportive of parental choice, and for good reason. They see hope and opportunity for their children when they are empowered, like other Americans, to choose between public, private, or parochial schools.

Many Americans have already exercised parental choice. Some have done so by sending their kids to a private or parochial school. The vast majority have done so by moving to a community where the public schools have a good reputation. The greatest concern of any parent buying a new home is the quality of the schools in the area.

But the poor, inner-city Mom or Dad who is trying to raise his or her children on one low salary doesn't have these options available for their kids. When their school fails their child, they can't afford private school and they can't afford to move to the suburbs. And they understand very well that if their kids can't read, write, do the arithmetic, and understand or have the computer skills necessary to compete not in a regional or a state or a national marketplace but in a global marketplace, they will fail.

We can tell them we are trying a number of experiments to improve their children's school, and hopefully we'll see some results over the years. But by then, of course, it's too late for their children. They will have joined another generation of forgotten children lost to the failed schools of inner city America.

I understand the opponents of parental choice have sincere concerns. But I ask that you look at the terrible cost of the status quo, the cruel consequences of our inability as public officials to come up with solutions to a problem that has been with us for decades. The time for empty promises is over. The time for positive action is upon us.

Some have said that the goal of our proposal is to abandon the public schools. It couldn't be any further from the truth. That is just not the case. In fact, the goal of our proposal is to abandon failed ideas and to embrace the possibility that we can start to save some of these children, not at some vague future time, but today, before another child is lost.

I again want to thank the Chairman for his leadership on this important issue. You have been a champion for education. I hope today's hearings will move us forward and give us the opportunity to demonstrate the sound results that will come from parental choice. We must not be afraid as we go into the new millennium, the Twenty-First Century, to allow new ideas to compete with old ideas. The cost of continued failure is simply too high.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you.



Chairman Riggs. Thank you very much, Congressman Watts.

I also want to point out that several of the proposals we're discussing today would focus, as you have suggested, on the under-performing children, the poorest of the poor, the most educationally disadvantaged, the ones who several of the witnesses today have suggested are trapped or who have been left behind in our failing schools, many times inner-city schools. So I appreciate your comments.

Now, Congressman Flake was to be next, but I'm told that Congresswoman DeLauro has a pressing time commitment. So she'd like to proceed next, with Congressman Flake's

Mr. Flake. Absolutely.

Chairman Riggs. consent. Very well.

Ms. DeLauro. I want to thank my colleague. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and our ranking member for allowing me the opportunity to testify this morning.


Ms. DeLauro. I think there is general agreement that we need to provide our children with the best possible education if we want them to grow up responsible and to be productive members of society. And as, in fact, we do move into the Twenty-First Century, Congress needs to work to improve America's schools to ensure the success not just of individual students, but of our nation as a whole. And I think that we as public officials are at a watershed or at a threshold moment on this issue.

My mother worked in a sweatshop. She earned two cents in the shirt shop where she was making collars that she stitched every day for many years. And, quite frankly, she never dreamed that one day her daughter would sit in the United States House of Representatives. But education and public education has been the great equalizer in this nation. And it is education that affords the child of a garment worker the same opportunities as the children of university professors, political figures, and business leaders. Education levels that playing field, provides every American child with the opportunity to make the moist of his or her God-given talents.

And it is the public schools in this nation where students of all economic levels, races, creeds, and nationalities come together in one classroom to develop the skills that they will need for a successful future.

The diversity of experience in public schools has made our nation strong and has put the American dream within the reach of so many of our nation's kids. In today's competitive global economy, it's more important than ever for every child to receive a first-rate education to build a better life for him or herself.

Eighty-nine percent of American students attend public schools. And I will not sit before you today and pretend that our public school system is perfect. In fact, our public school system desperately, desperately needs our help. Young people must be able to attend school in safety, without fear of violence and drugs in the hallways or in playgrounds. They need to attend schools that are structurally sound and not crumbling around them. They need classrooms that are not overcrowded. They need new books, access to computers and the world of the Internet. They need to be held to high standards to ensure that they are learning the basics in reading, writing, and mathematics. And, of course, our kids need to have talented and qualified teachers.

Siphoning money away from our public schools will not meet any of these goals. Vouchers will take critical dollars away from our public schools while undermining the principles of quality and accountability on which our public education system is based. We need to focus our efforts on improving our schools for all of our children and not providing, quote, "an out'' for select few, which will further degrade educational qualities of those who remain.

I have two main objections to the voucher programs. One, vouchers undermine the democratic and that's little "d'' the democratic principle of equality. And vouchers hinder our efforts to make American schools more accountable. Democracy works best when educated, involved citizens of all backgrounds participate fully in civil life. That requires a commitment from our communities to the education of children of all economic, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

Proponents of vouchers argue that they will enable poor families to have the same choice of schools as wealthy ones. This is a false promise. Not only do vouchers weaken the public schools by siphoning off funds. They typically do not even cover the high cost of tuition at many of the private schools.

Two examples, District of Columbia, Holy Trinity in DC, preschool, kindergarten, non-parishioners, $5,800 is the tuition. Georgetown Day School, the tuition is between $11,600 through $13,800. Many working families will be unable to make up the difference, making the voucher useless for them and providing the greatest benefit for wealthier families, who can already afford the cost of tuition. In the end, vouchers will create an even more stratified American educational system than already exists.

Democratic principles demand a commitment to public education, which vouchers in my view can only erode. That alone is reason enough to reject them, but they also weaken our efforts to hold schools, both public and private, accountable for the education that they provide.

Some voucher proponents argue that vouchers will enable students to move to better schools, thus pressuring the public school system to improve. The facts show that vouchers do not improve educational outcomes.

Professor John Whittier of the University of Wisconsin found that in Milwaukee, a city whose voucher program was actually found unconstitutional by a state appeals court, found there was no improvement in learning for voucher students who moved from public to private schools, meanwhile, the vouchers drained public schools of desperately needed resources.

Worse, in my view, the American community renewal bill specifically prohibits the Secretary of Education from any type of supervision of voucher schools. There is no accountability for private schools whose students do not improve. There is no accountability for private schools, which violate civil rights law, gender equity statutes, or the Individuals With Disabilities Act. And since participating private schools can give preference to students who are already enrolled, there is no guarantee that a student with a voucher will actually be able to attend the school of his or her choice or parents' choice.

If you believe that we have done a poor job of holding our public schools accountable, we should be very wary of a bill which makes it against the law to demand accountability from private schools.

Some of my colleagues would like to use the term, quote, "school choice.'' But, again, in my view, vouchers provide parents with a false choice. School choice implies that parents can send their children to any school of their choosing. But the facts are that students are regularly rejected from private schools on the basis of academic ability, behavioral problems, religion, disability, limited English proficiency, or national origin. There is no guarantee that private schools will admit children from disadvantaged backgrounds or that once admitted the child will be able to stay.

If our true objective is to improve accountability and student outcomes, vouchers simply do not make the grade. We have heard a lot about poll results saying that Americans want vouchers, but before we make a decision on the basis of polls, it's important to look closely at the question being asked.

On the surface, school choice sounds appealing, but the truth is that when Americans are asked if they support their tax dollars going to private and sectarian schools through vouchers, the answer is overwhelmingly no. In fact, the last four voucher plans that were put on the ballot in referenda in Washington State, California, Colorado, and in Oregon were rejected by margins of greater than two to one.

The American community renewal bill would override the views of the American people and mandate that any designated renewal community that wants to receive federal assistance must set up a voucher program for private and parochial schools. At a time when we hear so much about reducing the size of government, this bill would actually create a new bureaucracy to supervise the use of taxpayer funds that are going to be taken out of our public school system and put into private and into religious schools.

If we want to improve our schools and we all do. I believe that everyone is sincere in that view. Let's do it. Let's provide funds for public schools to make capital improvements.

As bills that have been offered by a number of my colleagues, including Congresswoman Lowey and Congresswoman Tauscher, I've introduced a National Infrastructure Development Act, which would, in fact, be able to do that with a public-private partnership.

Let's invest in future training, in computers for the classroom. Let's enforce strong disciplinary measures. Make our schools truly a safe learning environment. Let's improve achievement with meaningful national standards and grants that allow each school district to devise a strategy that's going to work for their students, not for students someplace else. Let's put our limited resources where they will do the most good towards improving our public schools.

Vouchers will not solve the problems in our public schools. They will create new ones. And they will ensure that a quality education for every individual child is going to be more difficult to achieve.

I think we need to abandon this proposal. And I think we need to start to work together to improve America's public schools.

I thank you for the opportunity to talk with you. And I thank my colleague again for allowing me to go ahead of him.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congresswoman DeLauro. I know you're going to have to leave, but I intend this as a segue to Congressman Flake's testimony since he's waited very patiently and very much look forward to his testimony.

I mentioned earlier, perhaps before you came in, about this experiment now underway in New York City where Cardinal O'Connor I think you may have followed this offered to educate 1,000 of New York City's lowest-performing students in Catholic schools.

He actually offered this, I think, maybe and Congressman Flake can correct me on this over a decade ago. And, finally, very recently Mayor Guiliani agreed to the offer but because of the church/state issue sought private sector support to fund this intuitive.

So these are privately funded scholarships, 1,000, to, again, the lowest-performing students in New York City schools, 1,000 scholarships for their parents, who are able to select any public or private school, religious or nonsectarian, that is recognized by the State of New York.

We went up there and had a field hearing, the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of this Committee, at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, as Peter Hoekstra likes to point out, a high school that the cab driver didn't want to take us to on a bright, sunny morning from our downtown Manhattan hotels. We heard some fascinating testimony. Over 23,000 families have applied for these 1,000 scholarships.

So I guess my question is: Do you feel that the massive number of families applying for scholarships should be viewed, as I think it is quite widely, at least in New York City, as a vote of no confidence in New York City public schools?

And how do you respond to Dr. Crew, Rudy Crew, the Chancellor of New York City schools, who submitted testimony up there? And I quote, "Parents want schools of high quality, and they're going to use any consumer mechanism'', there's Congressman Paul's word, "consumer mechanism''; he said "consumer sovereignty,'' I believe, "consumer mechanism to access them.'' It pushes us to really move as aggressively as we can in creating good schools throughout the city so parents do not have to look at other schools.

So I think part of what Dr. Crew is saying is reinforcing what you're saying. But, yet, again, you have this massive vote of no confidence in New York City schools.

Ms. DeLauro. My comment and I don't want to take much time. I'd be happy to devote a whole lot of time to this issue, but the fact of the matter is, as I said, I think our public schools are in desperate need of help. The question is: Where are you going to reach all of the students, the majority of the students?

I applaud the effort for 1,000 students. We have hundreds of thousands of students. And my point in my testimony and my belief in this effort is that what we need to try to do is to take what limited resources that we do have and to make the investment in the public school system that we have, deal with standards and accountability and the overcrowding situation, the crumbling buildings.

I represent a district that has both inner-city students in one of the poorest cities in this country, that's New Haven, Connecticut, as well as some of the most affluent towns. And wherever I go in that district, the complaints about overcrowding, the complaints about schools falling, the issue of literacy for our children, the issue of safety for our children are all there.

We need to commit ourselves not to 1,000 schools somewhere. We need to take a look, for instance, at the Labor, Health, and Education bill, which is on the floor today, with an initiative that's called "Whole School Reform.''

I happen to know Jim Comer very well, who helped to develop the model of the atlas schools, which brings parents into the school, which brings mental health into the school, which is an opportunity not for parents to participate, for the community to participate to use accountability on standards so that our kids are learning, they're in safe environments, the atlas school, the little red schoolhouse, additional models that are talking about public education and making it the kind of place we want it to be where kids can learn or they can learn how to compete and we can have kids making a success in their lives. We can't do for the few. We are obligated to do for everyone. That's what our responsibility is.

I applaud the efforts, but it's not enough. It's not far enough. And resources that go in that direction, in fact, take that money out of public education, which, in my view, as I said at the outset, has been truly the great equalizer in this country. It has not left education and the ability for education to only the rich and the privileged in this country.

I thank the Chairman for his question.

Chairman Riggs. I appreciate your testimony. Just let me point out that we would like to experiment for the few to prove what works for the few will work for the many.

Ms. DeLauro. Don't experiment without the

Chairman Riggs. Let me suggest this before you have to leave. I understand that you're responsible for organizing you're the theme team captain of the loyal opposition, the House Democrats. Perhaps what we should do and I make this as a very sincere offer is see if we can work with our respective leaderships, set some time aside for a special order on this subject where we could have a legitimate I know this was done a couple of Congresses ago Oxford-style floor debate on this particular issue because I know there are a lot of members who feel passionately, just judging from today's hearing, on this issue. And it would give us an opportunity to explore this issue in greater depth and really have, I think, a very good and very sincere give and take.

Ms. DeLauro. Love to do it, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Very good.

Ms. DeLauro. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. Congressman Flake has been waiting very, very patiently. Thank you for your patience. And we look forward to your testimony.

Mr. Flake. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.


Mr. Flake. I certainly thank you for the opportunity and invitation to come and testify before the Committee. Let me just say at the outset because people have a tendency to pigeonhole individuals so much in the political processing that I am a loyal Democrat, but I am also a person who is an educator and a person who lives in an urban community, a person who understands that this issue transcends politics because the concerns of education are really too great for us to really try to restrict them based on trying to define what is the appropriate position for a person to take based on their particular party. And that's the reason I find myself in the middle of this process because I do believe that it's important for us to remove the label and let the only label that matters be the one that says that it is time for us to address the whole question of education.

Let me just make it very clear, Mr. Chairman, that this is no new movement on my part. This is nothing new because I have spent a great deal of my life in education. I have served as dean of several colleges, Boston University and Lincoln University, where I was able to see young people coming into those institutions that in many instances, having come out of urban communities, did not have the basic skills for competition that one would expect for young people coming into the higher education arena.

It became clear to me that the only way you were going to address the issue was to begin the process of trying to educate at the earliest stages of their life and their development through some means that did not necessarily mean the public system, but by whatever means necessary, to assure that there were opportunities made available to them.

When I came to the church where I currently pastor in 1976, the first question I asked of the congregation if I were to leave my dean's job, assuming at that point that I'd be a college president by this time, that I had to have a commitment on them for education. And that commitment meant the building of our own school.

I would suggest to you today that the things that I have learned, both at the higher education level and with the school from pre-K through eighth grade, some 480 students and an average of 150 on the waiting list, that there are indeed parents, grandparents, and relatives who are very concerned about the quality of urban education, in particular, public education as we know it, and who are concerned about means by which they may be able to move their children into an arena that increases their chances and their possibilities for economic prosperity based on an understanding that the only way you do that is to have a quality education.

These decades of urban decay have caused us to have isolated public schools and isolated public school students, many of them in situations where the substandard educational opportunities available to them make them totally ill-equipped to be able to operate in today's competitive, technologically oriented, and advanced society.

If we as legislators are going to take the responsibility for our nation's future, we must do so by providing valuable educational opportunities to every child in America. I think what we're saying in this particular program, whether it is the America's Community Renewal Act or any other program that offers alternatives, is that as a nation that leans so heavily on education and education is about new ideas, new processes that allow people to develop strategies by which they can change situations that need change.

I find it interesting that in this debate, people don't want to even address the question of trying to change. We could no longer wait for the public education system to reform itself.

I am not against public education. I am pro-public education. But I am also for young people having an opportunity to get the best possible educational opportunities that they can. And, quite frankly, in the urban centers of America, that is not happening.

The only tools that we see available, the tool that is before us now, vouchers, charter schools, all of that is necessary. I think a synergy between them and what is currently available in the public sector makes good sense, in addition to trying to improve the quality of the school buildings. But I would say to you, Mr. Chairman, that if we merely improve the quality of the school buildings and do not improve the attitude about education in this nation, it will not make a difference.

I sit before you today as a young man of parents who gave birth to 13 children, 5th and 6th grade-educated themselves, but who wanted their children to have a better education. I rode the bus past 3 white schools to go 14 miles into the country to a 4-room school, 4-room school, where there were 4 teachers teaching 8 grades. That's how we maintained segregation. We got the books that other students had already used. There was no place for our names. They were filthy and dirty and nasty by the time we received them.

But the attitude of in loco parentis that the teachers took in educating us, as if they were their own children, demonstrated to us that it did not matter, the condition of the books. What did matter was whether or not we were prepared to take the responsibility for education and preparing ourselves so that we could be competitive in the future.

So it is not just a question of buildings. We can build nice buildings. And if the attitude is not right, you still will not be able to produce the kind of young people that can compete in the society of which we are a part.

Our nation's poorest parents are in many cases victims of a system that has neglected their needs, left them unable to function in this society. Understanding the plight of poor parents should highlight that our children will suffer if the educational needs are not met. Indeed, if a child loses a year, the probability is that if they stay in the public system, they will not be able to make that year up during that period that they are in the system.

As legislators, we often lament of the city's decay without lending credence to the reason why urban centers have decayed. An overwhelming reason for the decay of America's cities has been the lack of quality education available to residents of cities, especially those who are considered to be the poor.

I am not ready to write off children of low-income families, nor do I feel that America's urban communities have the luxury of waiting for the public schools to reform themselves. The competition that will be provided by allowing children and parents to choose their education will have the effect of streamlining what is now an inefficient system and hopefully by creating competition will open up opportunities that have heretofore not been available for these parents.

Public schools, in my opinion, will survive the competition. They will survive it, but parents need choices of scholarships so that they might be able to move into the next decade and into the next century knowing that their children have been given the greatest options available so that they will be able to be as effective as possible as they move out into society rearing families and trying to participate in this competitive society.

Frustration with the education of children has led America's poor urban residents to demand a better education for their children. While the bureaucracies of urban school systems free-fall their under-served students and their parents are initiating grassroots revolts throughout this nation, undoubtedly because of the profound impact, negative impact, of public education in their life, America's under class and working poor are looking to provide their children an education by any means necessary. And that means should not exclude the possibility of vouchers.

Overwhelming support for scholarships, as Congressman Watts and others have stated earlier, as indicated by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies polls, indicates that 57 percent of African Americans support school scholarships.

As pastor of the largest African American church in the City of New York, I can tell you from my group of educators, whom I polled and met with and met with monthly on a regular basis, most of whom are public teachers and principals, will tell you off the record that they believe that we need vouchers and any other things that will open up the bureaucratic processes of public education so that they will be able to teach and use their creative abilities. They do not feel that they will ever be able to do that within the system.

And if that is the case, it means that we will continue to lose our young people, that we will continue to produce dysfunctional individuals, or that we will continue to build jails to house young people simply because they did not get the kind of education that would allow them to get the kind of job to take care of the responsibilities of themselves and of their families.

Recently, some poor families have sacrificed their family incomes to send children to very affordable private schools to ensure that they receive good education. In 1993, the New York State Department of Education report shows that the highest levels minority enrollment Catholic schools, with 81 percent to 100 percent minority composition, outscored New York City public schools with the same percentage of minority students on standardized tests.

Indeed, as the doors of my school have been opened since 1982, we have taken students who have failed in the public system. And they have graduated from Allen Christian School, and have gone on to high school. We have graduated 99 percent of our students versus 52 percent of public students in the same community.

We do not test students in. Those students are permitted to come to the school if they show a willingness to follow our disciplinary plans and to follow with the homework assignments that they have, understanding that their parents must participate in that educational process.

African American private schools that operate under financial duress, as mine does, as do public schools in urban areas have a greater success rate of educating children from poor urban areas than do public schools in these urban communities.

It is no accident that when students graduate from Allen Christian School and schools like it all over this country, Catholic schools are generally waiting at the door to take them into high schools. And, indeed, we serve as a feeder. The Jamaica High School, which is one of the primary high schools in my district, with 50 slots in its honors program over the last 15 years has put 8 to 10 of the students from Allen Christian School in their honors program because those students come prepared, ready to learn.

Let me tell you there are those who would argue that if we mandate or if we move forward in a voucher program, the only thing that's left of the public system are the poorest of the poor. Mr. Speaker, the poorest of the poor are the only ones left right now. Everyone who can get out of the system within my community by virtue of the fact that they have some educational capability or some educational promise has already done it.

The surrounding schools to the schools in my community are filled with students who every day get on the subway or the bus and make their way to those schools. The Catholic schools in my community are as overcrowded as my school is because parents have made the choice already.

Some would argue that if the parents got the 1,300 or whatever amount of money it was, available to them, they would not be able to pay the tuition. May I argue with you that I see the grandparents, the cousins, the relatives all coming together at the time of tuition to assure that their children are educated. They will find the means to do it, just as my father would have done if it were necessary because my father worked two, three, whatever number of jobs were necessary to provide for his family. And I tend to think that people today who understand the value of education will do the same thing.

We cannot afford to sit back and argue that this is merely a Constitutional issue. If you look at the Constitution of the United States of America, its amendments have been placed there because there have been moments when this country discovered that there were issues that were inconsistent with what the Constitution had intended. When the Constitutional intent is not met, we have always found means to try to, either through amendments or through other kinds of processes, change the method by which we approach the problem that needed to be addressed.

I would suggest to you the greatest problem facing America today is the problem of education. And we can never jail, build enough jails to house enough young people who did not get a good education. We're talking about how much we're taking from public education. The reality is if you really want to see where the money we're taking from public education is going, it's going into building social systems and building jailhouses.

If you look at the amount of money we put into a jail, 40,000-50,000 dollars to house a prisoner, versus 6 or 7 thousand dollars or so to educate a child, that's the reality of the priorities we ought to take a look at.

On the other hand, if I can educate a child for $3,200 a year and the schools in my district get from 7 to 8 thousand dollars or more and cannot educate a child, it is not just a question of dollars. It is a question of how we utilize those dollars. It is a question of whether we have mammoth bureaucracies that are not responding to our children.

May I suggest to you, then, that rather than responding negatively, we ought to be looking at how we can synergize the best of all that is being offered, whether it is charter schools, whether it is vouchers, or any other kind of educational process that will allow us not only to maintain public education at the highest level but also to develop in such a way that every child in America indeed has an opportunity to share in the educational processes to the degree that they are guaranteed that they should have an education.

I would hope that we would get some support not only for the bill, but hopefully this debate, as it evolves, will bring us to the table with a reality that indeed something must be done about public education and it must become more competitive than it is today.

Thank you very much. I yield back the balance of my time.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you very much, Congressman Flake, for all of your leadership on school choice. All I can say is that we will miss you, those of us who believe as passionately as you do in this cause who are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with you. And I hope that you will continue to speak out on the need for educational reform and through parental choice when you return to your pastoral duties full-time.

Mr. Flake. I am freer now to do it than I have been in the last 11 years of my life. Thank you.

Chairman Riggs. That came across in your testimony.

Mr. Talent has arrived. And I understand that we now have a substantive vote on the House floor on the Souder amendment under Title I of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill on OSHA. So I want to give Mr. Talent an opportunity to make any comments he would like to since he obviously is the lead and other cosponsor along with Congressman Watts and Congressman Flake of the American I'm going to miss the name now.

Mr. Flake. Community Renewal.

Chairman Riggs. Community Renewal Act.

Mr. Talent. I certainly thank the Chairman for that opportunity.


Mr. Talent. And let me just say that the more I talk to people and travel around the country we have on this panel three gentlemen who travel a lot in different capacities I know, I've talked with Mr. Watts and Mr. Flake about this, and I know this is every the more I travel around the country, the more I believe this is an idea whose time is here now, Mr. Chairman.

The tide is out there. This idea is being implemented; both through public and private kinds of opportunities, scholarships, and the concerns that people have raised about it in defense of the status quo simply are not panning out.

The private schools that are taking kids are not taking the cream of the crop. I had a memo up here someplace indicating that one of the private school principals says, "Look, any cream that these kids have they get after they come here.'' This is not a situation where the public schools are being hurt.

The Milwaukee superintendent has indicated that as a result of their choice program, his system is beginning to implement the reforms that he feels they should have implemented a long time ago in order to be responsive to the needs of the kids.

It just comes down to a question of: Are we going to sacrifice another generation of kids or are we going to give some of them a chance? I hear some of the members, my colleagues and I know this is a hard idea to get around when you first start grappling with it saying, "Well, the problem is we're only helping a few kids this way. We're not helping all of them.'' That's an argument in favor of more of these scholarships, not less. Let's help more of them, then. I mean, once we begin, we may want to do that, particularly for kids in districts, which have demonstrable problems.

Unless we're going to bury our heads in the sand, Mr. Chairman, it just seems to me expecting other kinds of reforms to do any good within the time frame that these kids need is just not realistic, given the background. And, as a matter of fact, if we want to reform the existing establishment, let's move ahead with this idea because I think we will.

I just came at the tail end of Mr. Flake's testimony. I did not hear Mr. Watts' or Mr. Paul's, but the synergy that Mr. Flake was talking about seems to me to be the right approach here. Let's have a cauldron of new ideas circulating in there and let's make this one of them.

Now is the time to do it. We can help so many kids. There's a reason why these parents want this, because they want to help their kids. We can do it.

I'll just close by saying Mr. Chairman, I know this is a problem. This bill is a problem, for some people who are having trouble getting their hands around it, have some concerns, are somewhat more attached to the status quo, maybe have political problems with this, I want to do it in the way that makes it easiest for consensus to develop behind. I don't want to hold onto anything in our bill or any proposal on this that isn't necessary to the operation of this concept with integrity and real opportunity for these kids.

And, beyond that, I will do anything to make it easier for members to support this. I will make that pledge. I think we tried to do that in our bill, and we will continue doing that. We won't give up what's fundamental for the concept, can't do that. But, beyond that, we'll make it as easy as we can for people. That's why all of this is new money. We're not taking any money away from anybody.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've gone on too long. I appreciate the time.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Talent, I think Congressman Watts wanted to respond to your comments.

Mr. Watts. Just one comment, Mr. Chairman.

I think you probably could have saved yourself a whole lot of time today if you would have just let Congressman Flake come and testify. I think he does a very good job in articulating the total concept, the total picture of what this issue is all about.

And, secondly, one of the arguments you hear quite often is, "Well, if you allow school choice, you're going to hurt public education'' or "you're going to kill public education.''

Well, to me, that is an indictment on public education. If you say to a parent, a poor parent, "You've got the choice to send your kid to a public school or a private school'' and they choose the private school, what does that say about public education?

So I think that is an argument that supports, in my opinion supports, what the American Community Renewal Act does in saying let's let them choose. If they choose the poor school, the poor private school, the poor public school, then that's their choice, but let them choose. We don't give parents, especially poor parents; enough credit for being able to select what they think is best for their kids.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you.

Congressman Payne?

Mr. Payne. I certainly appreciate hearing the testimony from my colleagues. Just incidentally, in New York, there are a million and one children. So that 23,000 is about 1.7 percent of the total people eligible for these 1,000 vouchers. I just wanted to put it into perspective.

Let me just ask about these proposals before us. There's no guarantee that voucher-eligible children will be accepted in private or religious schools. So what about this whole business of admissions? Can either one of you answer that?

Mr. Flake. I think from my history, what happens here is that there is no way you would ever build enough private schools to accommodate the need. I average about 150 students a year on a waiting list to get into our school.

I think the objective here, though, Congressman Payne, is, even understanding that limitation that once you begin to deal with taking a portion of that market share that public schools now have a complete monopoly over, the objective is that you ultimately get them to do the reforms that are necessary to make public schools viable enough that they represent a formidable competition.

I listened to the arguments years ago when the Japanese came into our car market and I like to use this analogy. They said, "You know, if we let them in that's the end of the big three. That's the end of American car making.'' But what happened was when they looked at how much market share they would lose, they suddenly said, "We just have to make a better product.''

All I'm saying is you won't get the model in private school. What we would hope is the public system because of the billions of dollars at its disposal will say, "We've got to make a better product. We've got to produce more competitive young people. We've got to make sure that they have that capability when they come out of this institution to compete in any environment, regardless of their color, their gender, or whatever. And it should not matter what kind of communities they come from.''

When we talk about public schools, one of the tragedies of this, I did the MacNeil-Lehrer report the other night. One of the thing I listened to as I listened to the opposition, they were saying that the problem with this is that if you don't have a space for all of these kids, you suddenly discover that the public system as we know it, you know, we don't have that public system anymore. And then what do we do?

The bottom line is you're going to have that public system. That public system is going to function. And I suspect it will function much better. If it does not have competition, it will not reform itself because it has no reason to.

Mr. Payne. I personally don't think that the vouchers will improve the public school system. I think we need to focus on improving the public school system. I think the vouchers that you talk about are certainly going to take out the best and throw away the rest, but that's a concept in this country. We have a throwaway kind of

Mr. Flake. If you will yield to me?

Mr. Payne. Yes.

Mr. Flake. The best is already out. You're from Newark. I'm from New York. The worst schools in every last one of the cities that is represented by the Congressional Black Caucus are those schools in their districts. We are already left with the worst.

The issue becomes: Are we prepared to address the worst that is left in our hands in a way that presents a formidable enough challenge so that they have an opportunity to get that education or do we keep on doing business as usual?

Mr. Payne. Well, if we improve the school system the best, the kids are not the worst when they enter the school system. They have a lot of handicaps because they lack at home the things that kids in a higher-income community have, but the fact that we are going to siphon off and the average kid that goes into our public schools are really not the worst. They become the worst because the school is not performing.

And it's just like the B-2 bomber. They find out

Mr. Flake. You're making our argument.

Mr. Payne. They find out that the B-2 bomber doesn't work in hot weather, warm weather. Now they don't know what to do with it.

They spent billions and billions of dollars, S&L bailout, as you know. You're the champion of that whole argument about what the government did not do. We spent hundreds of billions of dollars straightening up the system.

Nobody quit on S&L's. Nobody said a B-2 shouldn't have 25 more that we don't need. They're going to make the thing work. I think if we put the same commitment in education as we do for the B-2 bomber, as we did for the S&L's, 4 or 5 hundred billion dollars expended, and we're going to straighten it up. And I think by the year 2001, S&L's will be straight.

I think if we put the same kind of interest and money into the educational system, that there's no reason why we should allow public schools not to work. I just feel that

Mr. Flake. But also understand with your analogy, you also had a competitive system. You had the S&L's, on the one hand. You had community bankers. And you also had the large commercial banks.

So the bottom line is you had a system where there was competition, where people would go if that system did not right itself. That's what we're arguing, that you have to create a competitive environment.

Mr. Payne. Five hundred billion dollars later. All I'm saying is that if we would for example, in your City of New York, I'm surprised only 23,000 people applied for that 1,000.

Mr. Flake. Twenty-seven thousand applied.

Mr. Payne. Twenty-seven thousand.

Chairman Riggs. Gentlemen, I have to

Mr. Payne. I mean, they've got kids going to school in closets over there. They tell me that they're so short of school space in the New York public school system, and we couldn't even get a

Mr. Flake. I don't think you and I want to debate New York and Newark.

Mr. Payne. Well, you know, I'm just reading about New York.

Chairman Riggs. Gentlemen, we are going to miss this vote, however.

Mr. Flake. Neither do I want to miss

Chairman Riggs. This debate will be continued. This is the first of a series of hearings, I hope, on public and private school choice.

And I want to recognize the ranking member for his very brief closing comment.

Mr. Martinez. All right. Earlier in this hearing, I said that I would support the Coverdell amendment. That wasn't exactly accurate. What I personally believe is that we should examine some form of relief for those parents who have children in parochial schools for such a short time since they pay their lifetime of taxes to school to support public schools.

Floyd, Mr. Floyd, before you leave or did he leave already? He breaks my heart, but I understand where he is coming from. He runs a private school and, of course, a religious-based private school. And so I would understand his position from that. But I still believe that that's not the answer. The answer lies someplace else.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you. I'm sorry we had to cut it short. I do want to conclude by simply saying I do believe that when parents have choice, they can leverage change in the public schools. The status quo is failing too many of our children.

And, as I said at the outset of this very stimulating discussion, it's time to let other ideas, like parental choice in education, have a chance to work. After all, for those parents, it's their children, their money, and their future.



Chairman Riggs. With that, the Subcommittee stands adjourned.

[Whereupon, at 12:23 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]