While Governor Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. wrestled with ways to implement desegregation of Connecticut’s schools and reduce the budget (including elimination of a school bus subsidy for private schools), a curious thing happened. Republican Rep. Timothy Bath and Democratic Rep. James Amman sponsored a bill to create vouchers worth up to $4,800 per child per year. The pending legislation would include private and parochial schools.
According to Peter B. Tacy, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, 1991 research conducted by that group showed that Governor Weicker’s proposed budget reduction would affect approximately 4,000 children, who would be unable to continue in non-public schools in the state. Tacy noted that because of the influx of children into the public school system, the cost to the state could be much greater than continuing the school bus program.
The Barth-Amman voucher proposal has received its share of criticism. An editorial in the Hartford Courant presented the tired arguments that the use of vouchers for sectarian schools would be unconstitutional and that a voucher system would result in the best students leaving the public school system, which would then face the prospect of educating difficult students with less money.
The voucher plan was praised by civil rights leader Roy Innis and Clint Bolick, an attorney who successfully defended Milwaukee’s school-choice plan. Speaking at a press conference at the state Capitol, Bolick gave a ringing endorsement to choice. “It is only by giving parents power over the most important function that happens in our society – education – that will really shake up the status quo,” Bolick stated.
Innis, who serves as chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, noted in the Hartford Courant that “the racial balance theory was tried 35 years ago. It failed.” He called school choice “the second phase of this great civil rights revolution.” Innis observed that the very people who oppose vouchers often are the same people who send their children to private schools. The decision of President and Mrs . Clinton to send their daughter, Chelsea to a private, religiously affiliated school in Washington has been widely reported by the media. Governor Weiker’s son, Tre, also attends a private school.
The League joins Mr. Innis in urging that the same right enjoyed by President Clinton, Governor Weiker and Jesse Jackson to send their children to private schools be extended to all American families.