Over at The Prospect, I report on the fact that John McCain hasn’t released a detailed education platform since the year 2000, confusing education experts as to how exactly he’s planning on improving our schools — if at all.
McCain’s thin education record raises questions about whether he has rethought either the central idea or the specifics of his 2000 education platform: a $5.5 billion, three-year national experiment in private school vouchers.
Since McCain first advocated vouchers, a growing body of research has confirmed that they do not improve students’ academic performance or help close the achievement gap between affluent white children and poor children of color. Furthermore, the value of the vouchers McCain and other conservatives have proposed — $2,000 — is equal to less than half the average annual tuition at an American private school — $4,689. That means vouchers won’t give poor families many educational options beyond inner city parochial schools, which are far less expensive and exclusive than secular prep schools focused on ensuring college admission. Voucher programs stack the deck against families who prefer a secular education for their children. In Milwaukee, the site of the largest private voucher experiment to date, 102 of 120 participating schools are religious-affiliated.
In 2000, McCain wanted to fund his proposed federal voucher program through repealing sugar and ethanol subsidies. He has continued to argue against such subsidies, but no longer links that platform to education. In fact, McCain’s track record in the Senate shows a long history of voting against redirecting money toward public schools, although he did approve $75 million in funding for abstinence-only education.