From the NYTimes:
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s call for a $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids is the latest effort by his administration to channel tax dollars to low-income parents to help them send their children to private or religious schools.
His proposal, in his State of the Union address Monday night, was denounced by some top Democratic lawmakers and teachers’ union officials as a national “voucher” program that would only drain resources from urban public schools that in many cases are in need of money.
And some critics said that the president’s call for yet another education initiative only underscored the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal law that Mr. Bush considers a landmark achievement of his first term.
In naming his proposed program after a federal scholarship program for college students, Mr. Bush sided with advocates for school choice who say low-income parents should be able to send their children to private schools.
The new program would be modeled after a much smaller federally financed “scholarship” initiative in Washington that Mr. Bush championed in 2003, which has provided more than $14 million a year for low-income children to attend private and religious schools.
But some lawmakers influential on education issues were not impressed by the proposal.
“The president didn’t commit the resources to expand educational opportunity,” Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a prepared statement.
“Instead, on top of a $70 billion shortfall in funding for his own education reforms, he again proposed to siphon scarce resources from our public schools to create new voucher programs,” said Mr. Kennedy, who is chairman of the health, education and labor committee.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union in New York City, said: “It is an indictment of how No Child Left Behind hasn’t worked. If that policy had worked that would be no reason to call for any new policies to turn around and compete with public schools.”