Date: June 8, 2004
Subject: Ronald Reagan on education

"Schools in America we created at the local level and administered at the local level for many years the greatest public school system in the world. Now through something called federal aid to education, we have something called federal interference, and education has been the loser. Quality has declined as federal intervention has increased. Nothing has created more bitterness, for example, than forced busing to achieve racial balance. It was born of a hope that we could increase understanding and reduce prejudice and antagonism. And I'm sure we all approved of that goal. But busing has failed to achieve the goal. Instead, it has increased the bitterness and animosity it was supposed to reduce. California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wilson Riles (himself a Black), says, "The concept that Black children can't learn unless they are sitting with white children is utter and complete nonsense." Well, I agree. The money now being wasted on this social experiment could be better spent to provide the kind of school facilities every child deserves. Forced busing should be ended by legislation if possible by constitutional amendment if necessary. And, control of education should be returned to local school districts." (March 31, 1976)

"In 1983 we seek four major education goals: a quality education initiative to encourage a substantial upgrading of math and science instruction through block grants to the States; establishment of education savings accounts that will give middle- and lower-income families an incentive to save for their children's college education and, at the same time, encourage a real increase in savings for economic growth; passage of tuition tax credits for parents who want to send their children to private or religiously affiliated schools; a constitutional amendment to permit voluntary school prayer. God should never have been expelled from America's classrooms in the first place." (State of the Union, 1983)

"Families stand at the center of our society. And every family has a personal stake in promoting excellence in education. Excellence does not begin in Washington. A 600-percent increase in Federal spending on education between 1960 and 1980 was accompanied by a steady decline in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores. Excellence must begin in our homes and neighborhood schools, where it's the responsibility of every parent and teacher and the right of every child." (State of the Union, 1984)

"America's schools don't need new spending programs; they need tougher standards, more homework, merit pay for teachers, discipline, and parents back in charge." (CPAC Convention, March 2, 1984)

"Confident in our future, and secure in our values, Americans are striving forward to embrace the future...We see it in the renaissance in education, the rising SAT scores for three years—last year's increase the greatest since 1963. It wasn't government and Washington lobbies that turned education around, it was the American people who, in reaching for excellence, knew to reach back to basics. We must continue the advance by supporting discipline in our schools; vouchers that give parents freedom of choice; and we must give back to our children their lost right to acknowledge God in their classrooms." (State of the Union, 1986)

"As a nation we do, of course, spend heavily on education—more than we spend on defense—yet across our country, governors like New Jersey's Tom Kean are giving classroom demonstrations that how we spend is as important as how much we spend. Opening up the teaching profession to all qualified candidates, merit pay, so that good teachers get A's as well as apples, and stronger curriculum, as Secretary Bennett has proposed for high schools. These imaginative reforms are making common sense the most popular new kid in America's schools.

"How can we help? Well, we can talk about and push for these reforms. But the most important thing we can do is to reaffirm that control of our schools belongs to the states, local communities and, most of all, to the parents and teachers." (State of the Union, 1987)

"Let us apply our ingenuity and remarkable spirit to revolutionize education in America so that everyone among us will have the mental tools to build a better life. And while we do so, let's remember that the most profound education begins in the home." (1992 Republican National Convention)

—Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)