5 (trick) questions on education policy

Andrew J. Glass

September 08, 1992|By Andrew J. Glass

THE kids head back to school in search of an education. The candidates head out on the road in search of votes. What better time to show your election-year skills? Here's a quiz that points the way:

Question 1: As a nation, we plan to spend some $445 billion on education this year. The 1980s were a time when tax rates fell while greed ran wild. So how much did spending on education go up during the decade?

The answer is 40 percent. Give yourself a bonus if you knew an even better answer, uttered last week by Education Secretary Lamar Alexander: "These figures remind us that money alone is not the answer to better schools."

Question 2: George Bush likes to call himself the "Education President." His claim to that title rests in large part from a summit meeting, held at the University of Virginia in 1989, at which leaders set six broad goals for the country. What role, if any, did Bill Clinton play at that summit?

The answer is that Mr. Clinton strongly lobbied his fellow Democratic governors to get behind the Bush goals. (They ranged from insuring that "every child shall be ready for school" to making sure the U.S. ranked first in math and science by the next century.)

Give yourself a bonus if you knew that Governor Clinton spent much of last week bashing the Bush record on education. Nearly all of the charges he raised were crowded out of the news by the media din over the draft.

Question 3: Back in Arkansas, Mr. Clinton forced all public school teachers to take a standard test to see if they could cut it in the classroom. His move enraged the National Education Association (NEA), the world's largest teachers' union. So what stand has the NEA taken on Mr. Clinton's presidential bid?

The answer is that the NEA is going all-out to try to get Mr. Clinton elected. (Bush education chief Alexander says that's because the governor offers the NEA "the least amount of change for the largest amount of money.")

Give yourself a bonus if you know where the NEA stands on the bipartisan goals. Even insiders aren't sure. But NEA President Keith Geiger gave a hint last week when he said his 2.1 million members are "ho-hum" about them, "just like the American people are ho-hum about the goals."

Question 4: Both presidential candidates really like Head Start, a program the Democrats began in the 1960s to foster early childhood education. So how many would-be students who are now fully eligible to join in the program still lack access to a Head Start classroom?

The answer is 7 out of 10. Mr. Bush has called for putting another $600 million into Head Start. Mr. Clinton says he wants to see it fully funded, which would cost at least another $5 billion.

Give yourself a bonus if know where the money would come from.

Question 5: When it comes to education policy, what do Vice President Dan Quayle and his Democratic rival, Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee, have in common?

The answer is that both will have one of their children enrolled this fall at St. Albans School for Boys or National Cathedral, its companion girls' school. They rank as the top private schools in Washington.

Give yourself a bonus if you knew that the Rev. Jesse Jackson sent his boys to St. Albans, too.

Andrew J. Glass is chief of the Cox Newspapers Washington bureau.

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