Where do we go from here?
First, commit to global markets and free trade. Internet curtains must not take the place of the Iron Curtain through tariffs, duties, or taxes on Internet access. We call for a permanent ban on access taxes and an extension of the current moratorium on new and discriminatory taxes, which shall not prohibit a state from collecting taxes that are currently authorized by law.
Second, maintain a highly educated work force so that continued progress need not depend on imported personnel. Like Governor Bush, we have made this a vital part of our education program that is detailed elsewhere in this platform. Instead of burdening schools with red tape and narrow government programs, we will give them maximum flexibility in using federal education technology dollars to meet their specific needs — whether it be for computers, teacher training, software development, or systems integration.
Third, speed up the research and innovation that drive technological progress, along the lines of our proposed tax reforms, National Institute of Health (NIH) funding, and a $20 billion increase in the research and development budget of the Defense Department.
Fourth, protect the technology industry from modern day pirates at home and abroad: both those who violate copyrights and those who loot by litigation.
Restrain the hand of government so that it cannot smother or slow the growth of worldwide commerce and communication through the Internet.
In addition, we must encourage government at all levels to work with the private sector to ensure that the Internet must be a medium for everyone. The old liberal approach — using the threat of stifling regulations to redistribute wealth and opportunity — will work no better than it ever has, and perhaps much worse, in the new economy. The Republican Party embraces a creative, incentive-based, public/private approach and a Republican president will use the influence of his office to urge high-tech philanthropy, with such initiatives as Governor Bush’s plan to create and strengthen more than 2,000 community technology centers every year — centers which provide such services as free Internet access and technology skills training. The prosperity of our New Economy provides unprecedented opportunities for philanthropic giving.
What holds true for the Internet applies as well to other areas of scientific advance, from biotechnology to chemistry. These fields require enormous infusions of capital, as well as regulatory flexibility by government. The federal government must refocus and reinvigorate its role in promoting cutting-edge, basic research, and the tax code must foster research and development. These policies will increase the pace of technological developments by de-emphasizing the direct role of government while strengthening private-public partnerships and the role of the private sector. In addition, the Republican Party will remain committed to America’s leadership in space research and exploration. We will ensure that this Nation can expand our knowledge of the universe, and with the support of the American people, continue the exploration of Mars and the rest of the solar system. We consider space travel and space science a national priority with virtually unlimited benefits, in areas ranging from medicine to micro-machinery, for those on earth. Development of space will give us a growing economic resource and a source of new scientific discoveries. The potential benefits of new science and technology to the American people, indeed to all humanity, are incalculable and can only be hastened by the international free market in ideas that the Information Revolution has created.
Privacy and Secure Technologies
Government also has a responsibility to protect personal privacy, which is the single greatest concern Americans now have about the Information Revolution. Citizens must have the confidence that their personal privacy will be respected in the use of technology by both business and government. That privacy is an essential part of our personal freedom and our family life, and it must not be sacrificed in the name of progress. At the same time, consumers should have the benefit of new products, services, and treatments that result from the legitimate use of data with appropriate safeguards. We applaud the leadership already demonstrated in this regard by many outstanding businesses, which are ensuring individuals’ privacy in various ways and promoting public education about the consumer’s right to privacy.
Education and Opportunity: Leave No American Behind
A Responsibility Era
Sometimes it’s important to state the obvious. This is one of those times. America is a great country. There are many reasons for this, foremost among them our long tradition of personal responsibility, the demand for high standards and clear values, and the central importance of family in social and economic progress.
In recent years, America seemed to move away from some of the qualities that make her great, but we are now relearning some important lessons. The key is to acknowledge the mistakes, fix them, learn from them, and move on.
We’re coming to understand that a good and civil society cannot be packaged into government programs but must originate in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in the private institutions that bring us together, in all our diversity, for the works of mercy and labors of love.
This section of our platform deals with some of America’s most enduring, and seemingly intractable, challenges. We approach these challenges with compassionate conservatism, a concept that is as old as the pioneers heading West in wagon trains, in which everyone had responsibility to follow the rules, but no one would be left behind.
Real Education Reform: Strengthening Accountability and Empowering Parents
"No child in America should be segregated by low expectations . . .imprisoned by illiteracy . . . abandoned to frustration and the darkness of self-doubt."
— George W. Bush
The question is "Are our schools better off now than they were eight years ago?" At a time of remarkable economic growth, when a world of opportunity awaits students who are prepared for it, American colleges and universities are offering remedial courses and American businesses are unable to find enough qualified or trainable workers to meet the demand. Worst of all, so many of our children, America’s most precious asset, are headed toward failure in school, and that will hold them back throughout their lives. Republicans desire a better result. We believe that every child in this land should have access to a high quality, indeed, a world-class education, and we’re determined to meet that goal.
It’s long past time to debate what works in education. The verdict is in, and our Republican governors provided the key testimony: strong parental involvement, excellent teachers, safe and orderly classrooms, high academic standards, and a commitment to teaching the basics — from an early start in phonics to mastery of computer technology. Federal programs that fail to support these fundamental principles are sadly out of date and, under the next president, out of time. For dramatic and swift improvement, we endorse the principles of Governor Bush’s education reforms, which will:
Raise academic standards through increased local control and accountability to parents, shrinking a multitude of federal programs into five flexible grants in exchange for real, measured progress in student achievement
Assist states in closing the achievement gap and empower needy families to escape persistently failing schools by allowing federal dollars to follow their children to the school of their choice.
Expand parental choice and encourage competition by providing parents with information on their child’s school, increasing the number of charter schools, and expanding education savings accounts for use from kindergarten through college.
Help states ensure school safety by letting children in dangerous schools transfer to schools that are safe for learning and by forcefully prosecuting youths who carry or use guns and the adults who provide them.
Ensure that all children learn to read by reforming Head Start and by facilitating state reading initiatives that focus on scientifically based reading research, including phonics.
Nothing is more important than literacy, and yet many children have trouble reading. This problem must be addressed at all grade levels. And as is so often the case in education, the solution is parent and child working together with teachers to help break a cycle of illiteracy that may have extended from
generation to generation. We want to replace that pattern with the rich legacy of reading.
We recognize that under the American constitutional system, education is a state, local, and family responsibility, not a federal obligation. Since over 90 percent of public school funding is state and local, not federal, it is obvious that state and local governments must assume most of the responsibility to improve the schools, and the role of the federal government must be progressively limited as we return control to parents, teachers, and local school boards. Programs beginning the process by congressional Republicans to return power to the people, such as "Straight As" legislation and "Dollars to the Classroom" are a good step to reach this goal. The Republican Congress rightly opposed attempts by the Department of Education to establish federal testing that would set the stage for a national curriculum. We believe it’s time to test the Department, and each of its programs, instead.
Over thirty years ago, the federal government assumed a special financial responsibility to advance the education of disadvantaged children through the Title I program. Today, $120 billion later, the achievement gap between those youngsters and their peers has only widened. The fiscal loss is not a good thing, but the human loss is tragic. We cannot allow another generation of kids to be written off. For dramatic and swift improvement, we endorse Governor Bush’s principles of local control, with accountability, parental choice, and meaningful student achievement as essential to education reform.
Qualified teachers are the vanguard of education reform. With mastery of their subjects, a contagious enthusiasm for learning, and a heartfelt commitment to their students, they can make any school great. That is why we advocate merit pay for them and expanded opportunities for professional development. Today, however, many teachers face danger and disrespect in the classroom, and their efforts to maintain order are hampered by the threat of litigation. We propose special legal protection for teachers to shield them from meritless lawsuits. We advocate a zero-tolerance policy toward all students who disrupt the classroom and we reaffirm that school officials must have the right and responsibility to appropriately discipline all students, including students with disabilities, who are disruptive or violent. Toward the same end, we will encourage faith-based and community organizations to take leading roles in after-school programs that build character and improve behavior. We propose to improve teacher training and recruiting by expanding the Troops-to-Teachers program, which places retired military personnel in the classroom, and by rewarding states that enact a system for teacher accountability. We will expand teacher loan-forgiveness to encourage qualified candidates to serve in high-need schools. As a matter of fairness, we will establish a teacher tax deduction to help defray the out-of-pocket teaching expenses so many good home, private, and public school teachers make to benefit their students.
Local responsibility for neighborhood schools has been the key to successful education since the days of the little red schoolhouse. We salute congressional Republicans for their continuing efforts, through Ed-Flex and other initiatives, to shift decision-making away from the federal bureaucracy and back to localities. We strongly endorse Governor Bush’s proposal to consolidate cumbersome categorical programs into flexible performance grants, targeting resources to the classroom and tying them directly to student achievement. That is real reform.
In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Congress required that every community in the country provide a free and appropriate education for all students with special needs and fund their schooling at higher levels. In return, the federal government promised to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure to cover the excess costs. During all the years the Democrats controlled Congress that was not done. It was congressional Republicans who took the first real strides toward fulfillment of the IDEA promise. We applaud them for recognizing that federal mandates must include federal funding. We will strive to promote the early diagnosis of learning deficiencies. Preventive efforts in early childhood should reduce the demand for special education and help many youngsters move beyond the need for IDEA’s protections.
In the final analysis, education remains a parental right and responsibility. We advocate choice in education, not as an abstract theory, but as the surest way for families, especially low-income families, to free their youngsters from failing or dangerous schools and put them onto the road to opportunity and success. By the same token, we defend the option for home schooling and call for vigilant enforcement of laws designed to protect family rights and privacy in education. Children should not be compelled to answer offensive or intrusive questionnaires. We will continue to work for the return of voluntary school prayer to our schools and will strongly enforce the Republican legislation that guarantees equal access to school facilities by student religious groups. We strongly support voluntary student-initiated prayer in school without governmental interference. We strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, backed by the current administration, against student-initiated prayer.
Higher Education: Increased Access For All
One of the most profound changes in American society in the last half-century was the opening of post-secondary education to virtually everyone. Competition among institutions has been the key to that success. What began with the GI Bill in the 1940s has now, through student loans and grants, become the best higher education system in the world. Ours is a system in which achievement can count for more than money or social status. Americans are rightly proud of that. Now the challenges we face in the technological revolution and in the global economy require us to continue to expand the extent and excellence of higher education.
That is why both Governor Bush and congressional Republicans have given priority to programs that increase access to higher education for qualified students. The centerpiece of this effort has been education savings accounts — the ideal combination of minimal red tape and maximum consumer choice. Along with that innovation, congressional Republicans passed legislation to allow tax-free distributions from state pre-paid tuition plans, enhance the tax deduction for student loans, and make it more practicable for employers to provide educational assistance to train workers. Unfortunately, that legislation was vetoed. Next year, a Republican president will sign it into law.
Meanwhile, under Republican fiscal discipline, interest rates on federally guaranteed student loans are lower than ever before so student aspirations can reach higher than ever before. Pell Grants, the doorway to learning for millions of low-income families, are greater than ever — and will become a dynamic force in math, science, and technology when a Republican Congress enacts Governor Bush’s proposal to:
Target increased benefits to students taking challenging course in those fields.
Form partnerships with colleges and universities to improve science and math education.
Attract science, math, and engineering grads to low-income schools and areas with shortages of those teachers.
Overall college costs, however, continue to climb, usually far ahead of inflation. Whatever the reasons, these costs squeeze the budgets of the middle class. Many families feel they’re on a treadmill, working harder to pay tuition bills that never stop rising. We call upon campus administrators to search for ways to hold down that price spiral; and, in fairness to them, we propose a presidentially directed study on the effect of government regulation and paperwork demands.
At many institutions of higher learning, the ideal of academic freedom is threatened by intolerance. Students should not be compelled to support, through mandatory student fees, anyone’s political agenda. The Republican party stands in solidarity with the dedicated faculty who are penalized for their conservatism and also with the courageous students who run independent campus newspapers to confront the powerful with the power of truth. To protect the nation’s colleges and universities against intolerance, we will work with independent educators to maintain alternatives to ideological accrediting bodies. We also support a reasonable approach to Title IX that seeks to expand opportunities for women without adversely affecting men's teams.
A New Prosperity: Seats for All at the Welcome Table
"America has been successful because it offers a realistic shot at a better life. America has been successful because poverty has been a stage, not a fate. America has been successful because anyone can ascend the ladder and transcend their birth."
— George W. Bush
We want to expand opportunity instead of government. Governor Bush calls this "the Duty of Hope." We see it as our duty to act. But whatever we name it, the goal is the same — to give hope and real upward mobility to those who have never known either. It’s clear that the old left-liberal order of social policy has collapsed in failure; and its failure was the most egregious among whom it most professed to serve: the poor and those on the margins of society.
The time is here to act, to bring hope, to expand opportunity. Republican governors throughout the country sparked a revolution that brought about the greatest social policy change in nearly 60 years — welfare reform. Inspired by the innovative reforms of Republican governors that successfully moved families from welfare dependence to the independence of work, congressional Republicans passed landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996 that has helped millions of Americans break the cycle of welfare and gain independence for their families. Because of that legislation — turning welfare resources and decision-making back to the states, with the understanding that recipients must meet a work requirement and such assistance would be only temporary — about six million Americans are now gainfully employed, many for the first time. We salute them.
And now it’s time to take more steps in the right direction by helping these families climb the opportunity ladder. It won’t be easy, but welfare reform wasn’t easy either, though the results were surely worth the fight. Here are our next steps:
Reward work with tax reform that takes 6 million families off the tax rolls, cuts the rate for those who remain on the rolls, and doubles the child tax credit to $1,000.
Implement the "American Dream Down Payment" program, which will allow a half million families who currently draw federal rental assistance to become homeowners, and allow families receiving federal rental payments to apply one year’s worth of their existing assistance money toward the purchase of their own first home, thus becoming independent of any further government housing assistance. This approach builds upon our long standing commitment to resident management of public housing and other initiatives.
Increase the supply of affordable housing for low-income working families and rehabilitate abandoned housing that blights neighborhoods by establishing the Renewing the Dream tax credit. This investor-based tax credit will create or renovate more than 100,000 single-family housing units in distressed communities.
Build savings and personal wealth through Individual Development Accounts, in partnership with banks, to accelerate the savings of low-income earners.
For many individuals, poverty signals more than the lack of money. It often represents obstacles that cannot be overcome with just a paycheck. These are the challenging cases, where government aid is least effective. These, too, are the situations where neighborhood and faith-based intervention has its greatest power. For this reason, the Republican Congress mandated charitable choice in the welfare reform law of 1996, allowing states to contract with faith-based providers for welfare services on the same basis as any other providers. The current administration has done its utmost to block the implementation of that provision, insisting that all symbols of religion must be removed or covered over — precisely what the 1996 provisions set out to prevent. The result is that many of the most successful service programs are essentially blacklisted because they will neither conceal nor compromise the faith that makes them so effective in changing lives. While this is unfair to faith-based organizations, it is unjust to those whom they could help conquer abuse, addiction, and hopelessness.
Texas was the first state to implement charitable choice in welfare, and its governor intends to expand it to all federally-funded human services programs. We support his plans to unbar the gates of the government ghetto, inviting into the American dream those who are now in its shadows and using the dedication and expertise of faith communities to make it happen.
This is what we propose:
Apply charitable Choice to all federal social service programs.
Encourage an outpouring of giving by extending the current federal charity tax deduction to the 70 percent of all tax filers who do not itemize their deductions and by allowing people to make donations tax-free from their IRAs.
Promote corporate giving by raising the cap on their charitable deductions and assuring them liability protection for their in-kind donations.
The renewal of entire communities is an awesome task and involves one human face, one human heart at a time. But the American people have a long and seasoned history of working wonders. Government does have a role to play, but as a partner, not a rival, to the armies of compassion. These forces have roots in the areas they serve, and their leaders are people to whom the disadvantaged are not statistics, but neighbors, friends, and moral individuals created in the image of God. With these approaches government becomes a partner with community and faith-based providers in supporting families and children and helping them improve their opportunities for a better life.
Children At Risk
Republicans recognize the importance of having a father and a mother in the home. The two-parent family still provides the best environment of stability, discipline, responsibility, and character. Documentation shows that where the father has deserted his family, children are more likely to commit a crime, drop out of school, become violent, become teen parents, take illegal drugs, become mired in poverty, or have emotional or behavioral problems. We support the courageous efforts of single-parent families to have a stable home.
The participation of faith-based and community groups will be especially important in dealing with the twin problems of non-marital pregnancy and substance abuse. Reducing those behaviors is the surest way to end the cycle of child poverty. After-school programs should be fully open to the community and faith-based groups that know best how to reach out to our children and help them reach their true
We renew our call for replacing "family planning" programs for teens with increased funding for abstinence education, which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and expected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, when transmitted sexually. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion. We urge the states to enforce laws against statutory rape, which accounts for an enormous portion of teen pregnancy. We support the establishment of Second Chance Maternity Homes, like the ones Governor Bush has proposed, to give young unwed mothers the opportunity to develop parenting skills, finish school, and enter the workforce. Because many youngsters fall into poverty as a result of divorce, we also encourage states to review their divorce laws and to support projects that strengthen marriage, promote successful parenting, bolster the stability of the home, and protect the economic rights of the innocent spouse and children. Finally, because so many social ills plaguing America are fueled by the absence of fathers, we support initiatives that strengthen marriage rates and promote committed fatherhood.
The entire nation has suffered from the administration’s virtual surrender in the war against drugs, but children in poor communities have paid the highest price in the threat of addiction and the daily reality of violence. Drug kingpins have turned entire neighborhoods into wastelands and ruined uncounted lives with their poison. The statistics are shocking. Since 1992, among 10th graders, overall drug use has increased 55 percent, marijuana and hashish use has risen 91 percent, heroin use has gone up 92 percent, and cocaine use has soared 133 percent. Not surprisingly, teen attitudes toward drug abuse have veered sharply away from disapproval. With abundant supplies in their deadly arsenal, drug traffickers are targeting younger children, as well as rural kids.
Still, there is no substitute for presidential leadership, whether internationally or here at home, where America’s families cry out for safe, drug-free schools. A Republican president will hear those cries and work with parents to protect children. We will bring accountability to anti-drug programs, promote those that work, and cease funding for those that waste resources. Equally important, in a Republican administration the Department of Justice will require all federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue drug dealers, from the kingpins to the lackeys. We renew our support for capital punishment for drug traffickers who take innocent life.
Illegal drugs and alcohol abuse are closely related to the incidence of child abuse. Government at all levels spends about $20 billion annually on a confusing array of programs to help either the children or adults in abusive or neglectful families. While the largest federal effort is the open-ended entitlements aimed at foster care and adoption, very little is allotted to preventive and family support services.
We must decrease abuse caseloads and increase accountability throughout the child protection system. We propose to restructure that system along the lines of our welfare reform success, by combining the separate and competing funding sources into a Child Protection Block Grant with guaranteed levels of funding. This will empower the states to respond more quickly, more flexibly, and with greater compassion to children in peril. We call for the stringent and effective enforcement of laws against the abuse of children.
For many of those children, adoption may be the only route to a stable and loving home. Government at all levels should work with the charitable and faith-based groups that provide adoption services to remove the obstacles they sometimes encounter in their efforts to unite children in need with families who need them.
We call for state and local efforts to help the more than two million children of prisoners through pre-schools, mentoring, and family rebuilding programs. These children are often the ignored victims of crime. Early intervention in their plight is essential to reduce the cycle of violence and to save a child. We should be tough on criminals but compassionate toward our children.
Renewing Family and Community
Individual rights — and the responsibilities that go with them — are the foundation of a free society. In protecting those rights, and in asserting those responsibilities, we affirm the common good, and common goals, that should unite all Americans.
We are the party of the open door, determined to strengthen the social, cultural, and political ties that bind us together and make our country the greatest force for good in the world. Steadfast in our commitment to our ideals, we recognize that members of our party can have deeply held and sometimes differing views. This diversity is a source of strength, not a sign of weakness, and so we welcome into our ranks all who may hold differing positions. We commit to resolve our differences with civility, trust, and mutual respect.