Who Did It Best? NYT, WaPo, USAT, or AP?

Once in a blue moon when everyone writes essentially the same story on the same day you can compare the major papers' education coverage -- or at least their opening sentences (and who they get to respond). There's no clear winner here, but some interesting differences:

Greg Toppo at USA Today gets lots of credit for a sly opener that hints at the strange timing of the event without being too obvious: "Children in poorly performing public schools need the chance to attend private schools, and taxpayers should pick up the tab, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Tuesday, four days after a report found that private schools offer little academic advantage over public schools." He also gets Russ Whitehurst to provide some comic relief trying to explain how his boss could have possibly not known about the report.

Lois Romano at the Washington Post gives us a meat-and-potatoes opener that lays out the basic power dynamics at play in no uncertain terms: "The Bush administration and Republican legislators yesterday proposed a $100 million national plan to offer low-income students private-school vouchers to escape low-performing public schools. The plan was immediately assailed by Democrats, unions and liberal advocacy groups." She gets the NEA's Reg Weaver to respond.

Over at the NYT, Diana Jean Schemo gives us a dry-as-dust opener that indicates neither how exquisitely awkward a situation it was nor the fierce opposition to the idea that's out there: "With Education Secretary Margaret Spellings joining them in a show of support, Congressional Republicans proposed Tuesday to spend $100 million on vouchers for low-income students in chronically failing public schools around the country to attend private and religious schools." But she does get Ralph Neas from PFAW for the react, which isn't bad.

It's not in the first paragraphs, but AP's Ben Feller bravely uses the "awkward" word to describe the situation without bothering to find someone else to point out how awkward it was: "The Bush administration requested the school-choice plan, but Tuesday's media event caused some awkwardness for the Education Department. The agency just released a study that raises questions about whether private schools offer any advantage over public ones."


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