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Ronald Wilson Reagan Case Study

AS SEEN IN USA TODAY NEWS SECTION, FRI-SUN, JUNE 11-13, 2004, PAGE 2A

Teacher grades impact as 'negative' but not completely

Reagan vowed to eliminate the Education Department as part of his emphasis on deferring to state and local government, but he eventually dropped the idea. The proposal created political problems for Republicans for years.

Even before Ronald Reagan became president, he was no favorite of teacher Sandra Mack.

She was teaching Spanish at Lowell High School in San Francisco when Reagan entered the White House. She had disapproved of many steps Reagan had taken on education when he was California's governor from 1967 to 1975. And she feared that his vow to kill the Education Department would choke off federal funding to schools.

By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

"Those kinds of things didn't lead me to expect great things," says Mack, now 61 and a substitute teacher and official of her local teachers' union. She still lives in San Francisco.

As president, Reagan's impact on education was "very negative," Mack says. She says that during his tenure, federal aid for college students began shifting from grants to loans, which forced students to shoulder big debts.

Education: Sandra Mack, a teacher and union official in San Francisco, became familiar with Reagan's philosophy when he was governor.

"I thought it was a positive step for education," she says. "It put education on the political map in a way that it had not been before."

But ultimately the report didn't make much difference, Mack says. Americans didn't demand big changes, so nothing happened.

Mack remembers that when Reagan addressed the American Federation of Teachers in 1983, federation president Al Shanker had to remind audience members to be civil to the president.

She was relieved that Reagan's threat to abolish the Education Department didn't come to anything. And she had high hopes for "A Nation at Risk," a 1983 report commissioned by the administration that declared the nation's schools to be in crisis.

Mack does give Reagan credit for enough flexibility to change course, even raise taxes. And he was so "congenial" that he was an elusive target. "Teachers were not able to effectively marshal our opposition," she says. "You couldn't get angry at the man."

By Traci Watson

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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