In a flourish of emotion, President George W. Bush led a nation of supporters and opponents through his 15-minute inaugural address on Sat., Jan. 20. His recurring message was that the promise of America must be restored, and he avowed that educational improvement is a necessity to begin such reparations.
Bush stated that Americans must believe in the “democratic ideal”, which he defined as a belief that every person is significant and deserving of support and consideration. This ideal has lost support, Bush claimed, because many Americans have lost faith in the promise of America as a result of poverty and the lack of secure education.
“We do not accept this and do not allow it,” Bush said. “Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.”
Bush’s assertions were followed by a controversial proposal announced on Tuesday, January 23. His plan includes granting billions of dollars in funding to schools in low-income neighborhoods, raising requirements for standardized testing, and providing vouchers for students who attend schools that are deemed failing, giving them grants to study at private schools.
The voucher proposal has ignited protest from many public officials and teachers’ unions, who argue that money spent on the voucher plan would deprive public schools of needed funding.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell serves as vice-president of the council committee on education, and strongly objects to President Bush’s proposal.
“I am absolutely opposed to the voucher plan, it is both dangerous and disheartening,” she said. “We have many students of low income in Philadelphia public schools, and we would thus be targeted by Bush’s plan. His voucher proposal strips funding from school items that are desperately needed, like books, computers, and staff salaries.”
There has also been protest from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, a union that frequently lobbies on both the state and federal level.
Jerry Jordan, vice-president of the union, feels that Bush’s program will have very harsh after-affects on the Philadelphia school district.
“Bush’s plan means less money for our public schools,” Jordan said, “We cannot afford necessary supplies: our teachers are being forced to pay for things as basic and fundamental as paper. These school buildings are 65 years old on average, and are cold in the winter and terribly hot in the summer. The average adult wouldn’t tolerate working in them, and this is one of the reasons that we have trouble finding qualified teachers to work in our schools.”
President Bush has argued that vouchers are plausible because “there needs to be an alternative to a failing school system.”
Although the outcome of Bush’s educational plan remains unclear, it is highly possible that the effects of the plan may influence admission to Temple University. According to Temple Student Information, the majority of Temple’s applicants are from Philadelphia.
Many Temple students remain divided in their opinion of Bush’s title of President, and his educational proposals. It has been argued that faculty negligence is largely responsible for the decline in public school standards.
Maureen Laubach, a senior JPRA major, supports Bush’s plan. “I believe that teachers, like doctors, lawyers, etc., should be held accountable for their performance in the classroom,” she said. “If teachers were held accountable for their students performance, like they are in other industrialized nations, our students wouldn’t fall so frequently by the wayside.”
Another Temple supporter of President Bush is freshman music major Justin Lewis, who says he happily anticipates Bush’s proposals, and hopes that he will act on his words.
Others students don’t share such support. Daniel Freed, a freshman music education major, feels that school vouchers will damage American education. “School vouchers do nothing [more] than take money from schools that are already in need.”
Students can act on their beliefs by voting in upcoming elections. “I blame myself for not voting,” Kwame Anoky, a freshman, said. “In the next four years I’m definitely going to vote, to let my voice be heard.”
Amy Reed can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org