Tommy Thompson on Education
Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)
Mark Neumann: Yes
Tommy Thompson: Yes
Eliminating illiteracy will require the dedicated effort of us all -- from parents to teachers to employers and churches. There’s no greater legacy we can leave our next generation.
Students should be advanced to the next grade level based on academic performance that meets local expectations, not based on their age or social skills. Under the governor’s plan, local districts would be required to adopt policies prohibiting social promotion and establish standards by which this is accomplished using the fourth- and eight-grade tests. The locally developed academic standards will allow schools to gauge student performance against a set benchmark. Students who do not meet local criteria will not be advanced to the next grade.
"But if they're not going to public school, who will decide where the kid goes?" they asked. "The parents," I said. I didn't even have to think about it.
As we discussed the idea, it started to become clear that school choice would accomplish what both they and I were trying to achieve. It would give parents more control and allow children to attend the best schools in their own neighborhoods; it would not cost the state any additional money, and it would shake up the system. It was a simple, commonsense solution: inject competition into the school system and let the market work by empowering parents as consumers.
School choice is more than a program. It is a philosophy. It is the belief that parents know best when it comes to their own children. It is the belief that poor parents have the same right to choose that other parents have. If a mother in Milwaukee wants her child to walk to the private school across town she's going to have that choice. If that private school across the street has a religious affiliation she is still going to have that choice. Religious values are not the problem. Drop-out rates and low test scores are. Government currently is allowed to pay for whatever preschool a parent chooses. It is allowed to pitch in for whatever college they choose. It is only for kindergarten through high school that we assume bureaucrats know best. Not anymore.
To make school to work successful, we had to ensure a strong local and community-based role. So, for example, we provide grants--which include federal grants--to local partnerships so they can develop their own youth apprenticeships. Demand is very high. In 1994, we received more than 100 applications.
Wisconsin's school-to-work program works precisely because it is a partnership. The real work of the initiative is done by organized labor, business, parents, and school groups in local communities across the state. State government plays a role of catalyst rather than micromanager. In our entire state government, only 20 employees are assigned to the school-to-work program.
This philosophy spawned some of the nation’s most innovative education reforms. Charter schools. Public school choice. Private school choice for Milwaukee. Charter schools operated by the city of Milwaukee, UW-Milwaukee, and MPS. Nowhere in America does a parent have more choices than in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And it’s making all the difference. Parents are now more involved in their children’s lives. The public schools are rising to the challenge of competition. There is no doubt in my mind that Milwaukee will become the national model for renewing urban education in America within a few years.
In 1990, Thompson created the nation’s first private school choice program. This initial program allowed low-income parents in Milwaukee to send their children to a private non-sectarian school if they chose. This program was an important first step to providing low-income families the same educational opportunities available to families with greater resources.
In 1995, Thompson expanded the private school choice program to include religious schools-another national first. The expansion gave parents a true choice in schools, including more schools in walking distance of their homes. Thompson believes it makes no sense to bus poor Milwaukee children to a failing school across town when a very good school exists down the street.
To be eligible for the program, a student must come from a family whose income is at 175% of the poverty level or below - about $29,225 for a family of four.
After the religious school choice law passed just weeks before the start of school in 1995, about 3,000 low-income parents moved quickly to sign their children up for the religious school choice program. “Religious values are not our problem,” Gov. Thompson said. “Drop-out rates and low test scores are.”
Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: "Voluntary prayer in public schools and facilities"
Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: "Vouchers that allow parents to choose private school for their children"
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