March 9, 1995 in City

Activist Proposes School Vouchers

David Ammons Associated Press
 

An activist with the Republican Party and the Christian Coalition on Wednesday filed an initiative to allow parents a school voucher if they don’t think their kids are getting a good public school education.

Olympia businessman Ron Taber, who unsuccessfully challenged Ken Eikenberry for the state GOP chairmanship in January, said his voucher proposal will allow people “true school choice,” including private school.

If the public schools, facing real competition from the private sector, improve themselves, they have nothing to fear from a voucher system and would actually benefit, he said in an interview.

“Let’s focus on the student, not on the school system,” he said. “If we really care about getting the best possible education for our children, this will mobilize some competition. It will actually strengthen the public school. If parents think they can get a better education somewhere else, let them vote with their feet.”

The voucher system has been proposed in other states, but has never been seriously considered in the Washington Legislature. President Nixon proposed it in 1973 and President Bush renewed the suggestion, calling it “A G.I. bill for kids.”

Taber’s proposal would provide a “scholarship” for private school equal to half the state and local school tax dollars, currently about $2,600 per child. He proposes a 10-year phase-in, beginning with kindergartners in the 1997-98 school year. An additional grade would be added each year thereafter.

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