Parents for Free Choice in Education, Israel Teitelbaum, Morristown, New Jersey

-By Israel Teitelbaum

Following are selected excerpts from last week’s presidential debate on the school voucher issue, followed by analysis and action alert.

MCCAIN: Well, it’s the civil rights issue of the 21st century. There’s no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America after a long and difficult and terrible struggle. But what is the advantage in a low income area of sending a child to a failed school and that being your only choice? So choice and competition amongst schools is one of the key elements that’s already been proven in places in like New Orleans and New York City and other places, where we have charter schools…And we have to be able to give parents the same choice, frankly, that Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama had and Cindy and I had to send our kids to the school — their kids to the school of their choice. Charter schools aren’t the only answer, but they’re providing competition. They are providing the kind of competitions that have upgraded both schools — types of schools…

OBAMA: …Charter schools, I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois despite some reservations from teachers unions. I think it’s important to foster competition inside the public schools…Where we disagree is on the idea that we can somehow give out vouchers — give vouchers as a way of securing the problems in our education system…

MCCAIN: …I’m sure you’re aware, Senator Obama, of the program in the Washington, D.C., school system where vouchers are provided and there’s a certain number, I think it’s a thousand and some and some 9,000 parents asked to be eligible for that. Because they wanted to have the same choice that you and I and Cindy and your wife have had. And that is because they wanted to choose the school that they thought was best for their children. And we all know the state of the Washington, D.C., school system. That was vouchers. That was voucher, Senator Obama. And I’m frankly surprised you didn’t pay more attention to that example… And I’ve got to tell you that vouchers, where they are requested and where they are agreed to, are a good and workable system. And it’s been proven.

OBAMA: I’ll just make a quick comment about vouchers in D.C. Senator McCain’s absolutely right: The D.C. school system is in terrible shape, and it has been for a very long time. And we’ve got a wonderful new superintendent there who’s working very hard with the young mayor there to try…

MCCAIN: Who supports vouchers.

OBAMA: … who initiated — actually, supports charters.

MCCAIN: She supports vouchers, also.

OBAMA: But the — but here’s the thing, is that, even if Senator McCain were to say that vouchers were the way to go — I disagree with him on this, because the data doesn’t show that it actually solves the problem — the centerpiece of Senator McCain’s education policy is to increase the voucher program in D.C. by 2,000 slots. That leaves all of you who live in the other 50 states without an education reform policy from Senator McCain…
MCCAIN: Because there’s not enough vouchers; therefore, we shouldn’t do it, even though it’s working. I got it.


In principle, McCain believes that school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century. Politically however, he only feels capable of championing school vouchers, “…where they are requested and where they are agreed to.” Therefore, in Washington, were the public is actively seeking vouchers, he would expand the program. Obama will eliminate it, “because the data doesn’t show that it actually solves the problem.” Never mind the fact that nine children were desperately seeking every one available voucher. Where, in the US Constitution, is it written that government has the right to deny children a good, healthy education and compel them to attend failing public schools?

Action Alert:

Call your representatives and candidates to request their commitment to The Civil Rights Act for Equal Educational Opportunity and leverage your vote on this. They will be sending you solicitations for your vote, where they list their contact information. Please consider this your golden opportunity to make your voice heard and your vote count for one of the most important issues of our day. The Act would mandate equitable funding for children attending non-public schools, just as we have equal opportunity in housing, employment, travel and entertainment.

Israel Teitelbaum is currently creating a new school choice organization to help further the efforts to improve our public schools. His blog will soon be up and running at Mr. Teitelbaum can be reached at

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