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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 9, November 1996

Voucher debate grows hotter

Three think tanks push issue to front burner

by Steve Smith

The debate over tax-funded vouchers will boil over into the publications of three major think tanks between now and the end of the year.

The Separation of School & State Alliance has made this a top issue because how it is resolved may be crucial to the success of the drive to separate school and state. In particular, Marshall Fritz, founder and director of the Alliance, strongly opposes tax-funded vouchers, believing them a threat to the Separation goal.

"Marshall is pushing this debate forward as much as anyone," said Rick Henderson, Washington editor of Reason magazine. Henderson is working on an article scheduled for the January 1997 issue of Reason, published by the Reason Foundation. It will examine the voucher debate in the context of other education issues, such as charter schools, he said.

Although Henderson said the article will not take sides, he plans to devote significant space to the work of the Separation Alliance, as well as to Fritz's leadership in the Separationist charge against vouchers.

Henderson moderated a debate on vouchers at SepCon'95 and describes himself as "extremely agnostic" on the question.

The January issue of Reason will be available on newsstands in early December.

Libertarian showdown

The Cato Institute plans to publish a long paper presenting arguments for and against vouchers as a way to move toward freedom in education. The case for vouchers is by Joseph Bast of the Heartland Insitute and David Harmer, author of the book, School Choice. The argument against is by Douglas Dewey of the National Scholarship Center. (An excerpt from an early version of the Bast-Harmer pro-voucher argument appeared in the October issue of The Education Liberator, with a response from Fritz.)

"We think this is an important policy question," said David Boaz, executive vice-president of the Cato Institute. "We've decided to lay out both sides of the debate and let readers consider the issues involved."

Boaz said he hopes the paper will be ready in time for the Separation Alliance's SepCon'96, Nov. 24-26 in Washington, D.C. Anyone wanting to order a copy may call 1-; the price is $6.

Conservative challenge

Meanwhile, over at Policy Review, which is published by the Heritage Foundation, Managing Editor David Miller said he is running an article by Dewey on "The Conservative Case Against Vouchers." It appears in Policy Review's November-December issue, which Miller said should be on newsstands by the time this Education Liberator reaches readers.

"The article talks about more than vouchers," Miller said. "His [Dewey's] argument opposes all government funding of education."

Although Heritage Foundation has supported vouchers, Miller stressed a distinction between Policy Review and its parent organization. "We will publish conservative arguments on issues, even if they don't necessarily agree with the foundation's position."

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