Donald Rumsfeld on Education

Secretary of Defense (Pres. Bush Cabinet)


1969: Experiment with school vouchers

Our plan was to have OEO (Office of Economic Opportunity) serve as a laboratory for experimental programs, not as an entity that managed large operations in perpetuity. For example, OEO had tried a number of innovative approaches to education. Under my predecessors, to their credit, OEO had launched an experiment providing school vouchers for parents. The plan had the support of my friend Milton Friedman. Friedman and I believed that school vouchers could lead to improvement in public education by giving parents choices rather than forcing them to send their children to a particular school. OEO also had supported an experiment in performance contracting for teachers, an idea that was bitterly opposed by the politically active teachers' unions.
Source: Known and Unknown, by Donald Rumsfeld, p.125 , Feb 8, 2011

1970: First suggestion of tuition tax credit (school choice)

[In 1969-1970, as head of the Office of Economic Development] Rumsfeld sponsored one notable new initiative that eventually became a cherished cause of American conservatives, tuition tax credits. It was the first salvo in an educational controversy that has persisted for decades. Rumsfeld argued that with tax credits or vouchers, "poor parents would be able to exercise some opportunity to choose, similar to that now enjoyed by wealthier parents, who can move to a 'better' public school district or send their children to private schools."

In a memo to Nixon about the tax credit idea, Rumsfeld said he thought he could convince Jewish groups that their fears about a violation of the principle of separation of church and state were "groundless." However, Rumsfeld went on, "The education lobby is clearly correct in perceiving the potential threat that these experiments pose to their comfortable world." That memo encapsulated Rumsfeld's eagerness to upset the existing order.

Source: Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, p. 13-14 , Sep 7, 2004

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Page last updated: Oct 27, 2021