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Joseph Lieberman on Education

Democratic Jr Senator (CT), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004


Supports vouchers that don't take money from public schools

Q: Do you support allowing parents in areas that are poor or with bad schools to use tax money to help send their children to private schools?

A: I support private school voucher experiments that do not take away money from public schools, include full evaluations, and are targeted to help low-income students trapped in bad schools. It's one way to help improve opportunities for low-income students immediately while we do the long, hard work of lifting up our public schools.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, "School Vouchers" Jan 25, 2004

Young people need a better public education

Q: What is the most important thing to make a real difference with respect to the abandonment of young people?

A: I'd say education. Let me give you a stunningly painful number, that the average African-American, Hispanic-American student graduating from high school is 4 years behind grade level of the other students. The priority is to fully fund special education; invest in the so-called No Child Left Behind; fully fund it. We need to have a pre-kindergarten program for all of America's children.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum Jan 11, 2004

Support public school choice; experiment with private choice

I have long fought for public school choice, including open public school enrollment, and public charter and magnet schools. Regarding (c) and (d), I support experiments in private school choice programs that are targeted to low-income students, do not take money away from public schools, and include strong evaluations of the success of such programs in raising student achievement.
Source: Vote-Smart Presidential National Political Awareness Test Jan 8, 2004

Broad-based sexual education is important

Q: What do you think is the best way to handle sex education?

A: you've got to be realistic in dealing with these problems. Sure, abstinence is an important option, and it ought to be part of what's done in school-based sexual education programs. But

Source: CNN "Rock The Vote" Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

We must commit money to improve education

Q: What is your education plan?

CHENEY: I think public education is the solution. There’s been no progress on reading scores in the last eight years. We’ve had a significant increase in spending for education, but it has produced almost no positive results. We’ve graduated 15 million kids from high school in the last 15 years who can’t read. They are permanently sentenced to a lifetime of failure. Governor Bush and I want to emphasize local controls so that people can decide what’s best for their kids. And we want to insist on high standards and accountability. We have to test every child every year to know whether or not we’re making progress. This is the most important issue in this campaign.

LIEBERMAN: You cannot reform education without spending money. We have committed $170 billion: to recruit 100,000 new teachers, to help local school districts build new buildings. We’re going to give the middle class the ability to deduct up to $10,000 a year in the cost of college tuition.

Source: (X-ref Cheney) Vice-Presidential debate Oct 5, 2000

Non-sectarian moment of silence OK in public schools

In 1988, Senator Lowell Weicker accused his opponent Joe Lieberman of espousing the “Jesse Helms-Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson platform” by advocating a moment of silence in public schools. Voters apparently ignored the charge, and a few months later Lieberman was sitting in Weicker’s Senate seat.

Many conservatives have linked their beliefs to specific policies like abortion, homosexuality, or school prayer. Lieberman instead advocates “civil religion,” spirituality without specific legislation.

Source: David Firestone, NY Times, p. WK-5 Sep 3, 2000

Voted against school prayer; for condom distribution

Source: Vote-smart.org Senate voting record Mar 2, 2000

More funding & more local responsibility for public schools

Lieberman [is proposing] the Public Education Reinvestment, Reinvention, and Responsibility Act, saying it represented a “third way” approach to education reform, offering a middle ground between the Democratic agenda of more spending and programs and the Republican agenda of more block grants and vouchers.

The proposal would dramatically downsize the number of federal education programs, provide public schools with much more funding and flexibility in how to spend those dollars, and hold educators accountable for producing results.

Overall it would increase federal investment in public education by $25 billion over the next five years, targeting most of those new dollars to the poorest school districts in the nation. Local educators would have the freedom to allocate this money to meet their specific needs. And in return, they would have the responsibility to meet specific performance standards, and suffer real consequences for failing to do so.

Source: Press release, “Three R’s” Nov 16, 1999

More flexibility for more accountable results

There is a better way, a third way, that synthesizes the best ideas of both sides into a progressive, practical blueprint for real change [concerning education and the quality of America’s public schools]. We believe that what we need most now are not new programs but a new paradigm, a new emphasis on results rather than rules. We would end the tendency to throw out a new federal initiative for every educational problem, and instead begin reorienting our policies around the singular mission of raising academic achievement. In doing so, we would join the states in a common-sense compact, providing schools with more funding and freedom to meet their specific needs in exchange for more accountability to the families they serve. This kind of compact is the defining characteristic of the charter school model, which New Democrats have been advocating for years, and the success of the charter movement has encouraged us to apply it more broadly.
Source: Statement on “Three R’s” Education Reform Proposal Nov 16, 1999


Joseph Lieberman on School Choice

Keep vouchers out of reforms, so reforms can get done

Some moderate Republicans are worried that a prolonged battle over vouchers would endanger the more widely supported facet of Bush’s $47.6 billion education proposals. Joe Lieberman [and other Democrats will] introduce a bill which includes many of the popular GOP-sponsored accountability provisions minus the voucher plan. Lieberman said there were many similarities between the education proposals, but much work will be needed to build consensus.
Source: CNN.com Jan 23, 2001

Would advocate vouchers privately, but support Gore publicly

In 1992, Lieberman voted for funding vouchers to allow low-income parents to pull their children out of dysfunctional public schools and pay tuition at private schools. Gore voted against that proposal. Lieberman said on Sunday that if he and Gore win, he would continue to advocate vouchers “within the privacy of our relationship, but never publicly.” He added that he supported vouchers only as a temporary measure, seeing them as “a way out for poor kids trapped in failing schools.”
Source: MSNBC.com Aug 16, 2000

Supports charter schools, private education savings accounts

Lieberman frequently supported experiments with spending public money-via vouchers--to help parents pay tuition at private schools. The senator also voted for tax-deferred savings accounts that would help parents pay for public and private educational expenses. He was a supporter of charter schools. He sponsored legislation that would overhaul federal bilingual education programs in an effort to get children to learn English as fast as possible, an approach many Democrats view as harmful.
Source: Nick Anderson, latimes.com Aug 10, 2000

Choice won’t “ruin” schools; they’re already in ruins

Since he first entered the Senate, Lieberman has supported & sponsored legislation establishing pilot programs in which the federal government would give parents vouchers they could use to pay their children’s tuition at private schools, including those with religious affiliation. Gore has argued that such programs could undermine public schools. And many Democrats believe that vouchers violate the doctrine of separation of church and state. Mainly because of Democratic opposition, no voucher plan has ever become law.

In 1997 Lieberman declared: “There are some who dismiss suggestions of school choice programs and charter schools out of hand, direly predicting that these approaches will ‘ruin’ the public schools. The undeniable reality here is that this system is already in ruins, and to blindly reject new models and refuse to try new ideas is simply foolish. We can and must do better for these children, and to cling stubbornly to the failures of the past will just not get us there.”

Source: David E. Rosenbaum, NY Times, p. A19 Aug 8, 2000

Lieberman’s view on vouchers closer to Bush’s than Gore’s?

Bush’s campaign overstated the case when it asserted in a statement Monday that Gore “has chosen a man whose positions are more similar to Gov. Bush’s than his own.” But Lieberman does echo Bush in supporting private-school vouchers for low-income parents whose children are stuck in poorly performing schools. (Gore staunchly opposes the idea.)
Source: Ronald Brownstein, LA Times Aug 8, 2000

Voted for vouchers; against block grants