Another heated skirmish is expected here--but over what is not clear. President Reagan mentioned education vouchers in his State of the Union speech, but the Education Department has not worked out details. It hopes to by March 1.
The voucher debate has kicked around education circles for years. The basic idea is that parents would be given a voucher they could use to help pay the tuition at any school of their choice, public or private. The theory is that this would foster competition among schools, and result in better education for all.
The Reagan administration's voucher plan would apply only to disadvantaged children, now provided compensatory education services under Chapter I (formerly called Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a $3.2 billion program.
The plan now being given consideration is a limited one. Each school district, Bell said, would be able to decide whether to participate, and he doubts many will make that choice.
In those that do, the vouchers would be awarded to parents only on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the school district. Each voucher would be worth about $520 a year and could be used at any school.
Many educators feel the plan would create an "administrative nightmare." The word from Capitol Hill is that the voucher plan, regardless of its language, will not go anywhere.