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Radio Address to the Nation on a "GI Bill" for Children

June 27, 1992

Today I'd like to speak with you about a subject close to the heart of every American: the education of our children. You might not know it to read the morning paper or watch the evening news, but there's a revolution going on in our country, a revolution with a single aim: To make American schools the best in the world.

This week I proposed a giant step forward in that revolution. I sent to Congress legislation authorizing $500 million to help States and communities give children from middle- and low-income families a $1,000 scholarship. And here's the crucial part: Families will be allowed to spend this money at any school of their choice, whether that school is public, private, or religious. This proposal is in the greatest American tradition.

Forty-eight years ago this week, President Roosevelt signed the GI bill creating scholarships that veterans could use at any college, any college of their choice. The GI bill created opportunity for Americans who never would have had it. And in so doing, it helped to create the best system of colleges and universities in the world. And we can do it again, this time with a "GI bill" for children, helping State and local governments create the best elementary and secondary schools in the world.

My proposal is based on a few fundamental truths. I believe that parents are their children's first teachers. Parents, not bureaucrats, know what's best for their children. Parents, not the Government, should choose their children's schools. For too long we've shielded schools from competition, allowed them a damaging monopoly power over our children. This monopoly turns students into statistics and parents into pawns.

Let's be clear about who's hurt most by the present system. It's not the wealthy; they can already afford to send their children to whichever school they choose. The "GI bill" for children will give low- and middle-income families more of those choices. Whether it's the public school down the street or across town, whether it's a parochial or Yeshiva or Bible school, parents should be able to decide which school will provide the best education for their kids. By injecting competition into our education system, by allowing parents to choose their children's schools, we can break the monopoly, provide the catalyst to open up opportunities for our kids and create genuine change in our schools.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Revolutions do not go backward." And all across the country, from Pennsylvania to California, from San Antonio to Indianapolis, the school choice revolution is gaining steam.

I met with many leaders of that movement at the White House this week. They are the true heroes of school reform. They aren't afraid to stand up to the status quo, to say loud and clear that when it comes to educating our kids, business as usual just is not good enough. And I'm proud to stand at their side.

The protectors of the status quo should understand this revolution will succeed with or without their help. We will create the finest schools for our children and grandchildren. And we will do it by restoring to education the truest American principles: freedom and opportunity and choice.

Thank you for listening. And may God bless the United States of America.

Note: This address was recorded at 8 a.m. on June 26 in the Cabinet Room at the White House for broadcast after 9 a.m. on June 27.

George Bush, Radio Address to the Nation on a "GI Bill" for Children Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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