Family Research Council
has come out in support of President-elect George W. Bush’s nomination for Education Secretary, calling him a pro-school-choice advocate and a “proponent … of parental involvement” in education.

On Friday, Bush named Rod Paige, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District — the nation’s 7th largest — as his nominee to head up the Education Department after the imminent departure of Clinton education chief Richard Riley.

Bush described Paige — who is widely credited with having created one of the country’s best urban school districts — as a “reformer, and someone who had a record of results, who understands that it’s important to set the highest of high standards.”

Family Research Council education experts agree, saying, “As proponents of choice in schools and parental involvement, Family Research Council welcomes Rod Paige to Washington, D.C.”

FRC president Ken Connor noted Paige’s Houston record, and said, “his support for school choice not only helped the students, but helped the overall public school system.”

The traditional family-values organization said it looked forward to working with Connor on a number of issues — including advocating the determination of public school curricula and testing at the local level, helping to pass Education Savings Account legislation and “Straight A’s legislation, allowing states to use federal education money for state-developed programs that clearly demonstrate improvement under the state’s plan.”

“We are optimistic Mr. Paige will hear the voice of the families that the Family Research Council represents here in Washington, D.C., on such important issues affecting our children and grandchildren,” Connor added.

In announcing his decision to nominate Page in Washington Friday, Bush said that under Paige’s tenure, overall test scores and academic performance have improved among the district’s 90-percent minority student body.

Paige pledged to expand on the work he and the president-elect have already done in Texas while Bush was governor.

“The bottom line is this: When we set high standards for our schools and our children, and when we give our schools and our children the support they need and hold them accountable for results, public education can get the job done,” Paige said Friday, after receiving his nomination.

As education secretary, Paige may find himself at odds with the

National Education Association,
which has opposed school-choice initiatives and, especially, voucher programs to allow for some public funding of private and parochial schools.

“We hope efforts to undermine successful programs through unaccountable block grants and vouchers will cease and that Congress will heed the message delivered by voters last month and devote its energy to improving public schools,” said NEA president Bob Chase in a Dec. 15 statement.

According to the NEA, voters in the Nov. 7 election, in exit polls, “said they preferred programs to fix public schools to proposals to pay for private and religious schools” by a 78 to 16 percent margin.

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