" Unlike the abortion dispute, my opposition to tuition tax credits pitted me against the Roman Catholic bishops, who wanted such credits to bolster the financial condition of parochial school systems.
One opponent remained the same, however: Oregon Senator Robert Packwood, whose proselytizing for tuition tax credits allied him shoulder to shoulder with the [Roman] Catholic hierarchy he opposed on federal funding for abortion. "
From .......... GOVERNING AMERICA - An Insider's Report
From the White House and the Cabinet
By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
299 ...................... EDUCATION
............. actually spent on scholastic work. The report warned that
"any setting of statewide minimum competency standards for awarding the high school diploma - however understandable the high public clamor which has produced the current movement and expectation is basically unworkable, exceeds the current measurement arts of the testing profession, and will create more social problems than it can conceivably solve."
Senator [Roman Catholic] Pell, who had triggered Carter's pressure on me, asked the conference audience of several hundred chief state school officers, representatives of parents and civil rights groups, teachers, and congressional staffers,
"How many of you agree with the idea of a national achievement test?"
Two hands went up. Pell never introduced a bill on national testing.
That conference helped cool the President's ardor. He spoke to me about testing only once again. At a Cabinet meeting on September 25, 1978, he asked me to look at North Carolina's new statewide testing program set up by Governor Jim Hunt. National Institute of Education Director Patricia Graham looked at the program and I reported to the President on December 22 that it was too early to judge its effectiveness. Moreover, a class action challenging its constitutionality had been filed by eleventh- and twelfth-grade blacks, lower income whites, and American Indians. Carter did not comment on my report.
THE FAILURE of children to learn and teachers to teach basic skills was symptomatic of the disintegration of public education in America. In many states, up to 20 percent of the teachers themselves lacked competence in basic English; those who could teach were often terrorized, particularly in urban schools.
Just as the nation had gotten in place student aid programs that permit anyone with the talent to go to any college he or she chooses, regardless of economic situation, a deteriorating system of public elementary and secondary education was unable to prepare deserving boys and girls to take advantage of the opportunities those programs offered.
With the decline of public schools, parents turned elsewhere for their childrens education - in cities, to [Roman] Catholic elementary and secondary schools; throughout the country, where they had the money, to private schools.
The chasm between children educated in most urban public schools and those in parochial or private schools widened, as the public systems produced hundreds of thousands of functional illiterates, and the nonpublic schools developed an educated elite. The danger to democracy of this situation - and the human tragedy of so many missed personal opportunities - made it essential to rebuild our system of public education.
300 .................. GOVERNING AMERICA
While I recognized HEW's limitations in any such effort, I did consider it imperative not to take any steps that might further jeopardize public schools. That conviction was central to my strenuous opposition to the proposals for tuition tax credits to permit a taxpayer to subtract, dollar for dollar from taxes otherwise due, a portion of the private or parochial school tuition paid for each child.
Unlike the abortion dispute, my opposition to tuition tax credits pitted me against the Roman Catholic bishops, who wanted such credits to bolster the financial condition of parochial school systems. One opponent remained the same, however: Oregon Senator Robert Packwood, whose proselytizing for tuition tax credits allied him shoulder to shoulder with the Catholic hierarchy he opposed on federal funding for abortion.
Republican Senator William Roth of Delaware introduced legislation on January 18, 1977, to establish a tax credit of up to $250 for tuition paid to a college, university, or post-secondary vocational school. In May of that year, New York Democratic Senator Pat [Roman Catholic] Moynihan proposed increasing the credit to $500 and extending it to tuition paid to elementary and secondary schools. In September, he was joined by Packwood and enough other co-sponsors to signal a major fight.
The battle began without the public-parochial school issue, when, on November 4, the Senate voted 61 to 11 to attach Roth's $250 tuition tax credit for higher education to "must" Social Security financing legislation.
Roth's amendment would cost $1.2 billion in lost revenues, effectively increasing federal student aid programs by more than 25 percent. It would put two more congressional committees, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means, and the Treasury Department into the education policy area. Since the credit went in equal amount to each student, financially pressed colleges would likely increase their tuitions by that amount. I thought Senate Finance Committee Chairman Russell Long would drop the proposal in conference without much argument, since it was not attached to the House-passed version of the Social Security financing bill. But when Long designated Roth one of the Senate conferees on the Social Security bill, it was clear that we would have to pay a price to get rid of the tuition tax credit, because Long would use it to hold Roth's vote on other issues.
After three fruitless House/Senate Conference Committee sessions, Long and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman secretly agreed on December 7 to a Social Security package that would have put the Roth tuition tax credit for higher education into effect for one year. Informed of this, I told Ullman the administration could not accept any tuition tax credit. We knew that most House conferees would not accept it.
When committee member Dan Rostenkowski found out about Ullman's agreement on the tuition tax credit, he was furious.
''The House will never take it," he told me in a phone conversation on December 9. ''There've never been any hearings. We've got to get rid of it or we'll blow the Social Security bill.''
- END QUOTE -
GOVERNING AMERICA - An Insider's Report
From the White House and the Cabinet
By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Published by Simon and Schuster 1981