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James Sensenbrenner on Education

Republican Representative (WI-5)


Voted YES on reauthorizing the DC opportunity scholarship program.

Congressional Summary:The SOAR Act award five-year grants on a competitive basis to nonprofit organizations to carry out an expanded school choice opportunities to students who are District of Columbia residents and who come from households:
  1. receiving assistance under the supplemental nutrition assistance program; or
  2. with incomes not exceeding 185% of the poverty line.
Provides funds to the Mayor of DC, if the Mayor agrees to specified requirements, for:
  1. the DC public schools to improve public education, and
  2. the DC public charter schools to improve and expand quality public charter schools.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Bishop, R-UT]: In 1996, Congress insisted upon a charter school program in DC. You will hear from both sides of the aisle recognition of the great value that that program has, and justifiably so. There is a waiting list in DC for those charter schools. This bill increases the percentage of funding going to charter schools in the District. In 2003, an Opportunity Scholarship was instituted, at the insistence of Congress. Again, there was a waiting list of people wanting the opportunity; disadvantaged kids who wanted the opportunity that this scholarship afforded them. There were 216 kids at the time scheduled to enter the program who were not allowed; the bill remedies that.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Hastings, D-FL]: In the last 41 years voters have rejected private school vouchers every time they have been proposed. In 1981, 89% of the people in a referendum in DC voted against vouchers. So how dare we come here to tell these people that we are going to thrust upon them something they don't want without a single public official in this community being consulted. Congress' oversight of the District is not an excuse for political pandering to the Republicans' special interest of the day du jour.

Reference: Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR); Bill HRes186 ; vote number 11-HV200 on Mar 30, 2011

Voted NO on $40B for green public schools.

Congressional Summary:Make grants to states for the modernization, renovation, or repair of public schools, including early learning facilities and charter schools, to make them safe, healthy, high-performing, and technologically up-to-date.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Rep. BETSY MARKEY (D, CO-4): This legislation will improve the learning environment for our children, reduce energy costs and create new jobs across the country. Green schools not only save school districts money but also teach the importance of sustainable living to children at a young age.

Opponent's argument to vote No: Rep. GLENN THOMPSON (R, PA-5): We all know our Nation is drowning in a sea of red ink. The bill we're debating today would add an estimated $40 billion in new spending. And despite the majority's hollow promises of fiscal responsibility, there's nothing in the legislation to offset this hefty price tag with spending reductions elsewhere. This is just more of the same borrow and spend, spend and borrow policy that we've seen under this majority and this administration.

Reference: 21st Century Green Schools Act; Bill H.R.2187 ; vote number 2009-H259 on May 14, 2009

Voted NO on additional $10.2B for federal education & HHS projects.

Veto override on the bill, the American Competitiveness Scholarship Act, the omnibus appropriations bill for the Departments of Departments of Education, Health & Human Services, and Labor. Original bill passed & was then vetoed by the President.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Rep. OBEY: This bill, more than any other, determines how willing we are to make the investment necessary to assure the future strength of this country and its working families. The President has chosen to cut the investments in this bill by more than $7.5 billion in real terms. This bill rejects most of those cuts.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Rep. LEWIS: This bill reflects a fundamental difference in opinion on the level of funding necessary to support the Federal Government's role in education, health and workforce programs. The bill is $10.2 billion over the President's budget request. While many of these programs are popular on both sides of the aisle, this bill contains what can rightly be considered lower priority & duplicative programs. For example, this legislation continues three different programs that deal with violence prevention. An omnibus bill is absolutely the wrong and fiscally reckless approach to completing this year's work. It would negate any semblance of fiscal discipline demonstrated by this body in recent years.

Veto message from President Bush:

This bill spends too much. It exceeds [by $10.2 billion] the reasonable and responsible levels for discretionary spending that I proposed to balance the budget by 2012. This bill continues to fund 56 programs that I proposed to terminate because they are duplicative, narrowly focused, or not producing results. This bill does not sufficiently fund programs that are delivering positive outcomes. This bill has too many earmarks--more than 2,200 earmarks totaling nearly $1 billion. I urge the Congress to send me a fiscally responsible bill that sets priorities.

Reference: American Competitiveness Scholarship Act; Bill Veto override on H.R. 3043 ; vote number 2007-1122 on Nov 15, 2007

Voted NO on allowing Courts to decide on "God" in Pledge of Allegiance.

Amendment to preserve the authority of the US Supreme Court to decide any question pertaining to the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill underlying this amendment would disallow any federal courts from hearing cases concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. This amendment would make an exception for the Supreme Court.

Proponents support voting YES because:

I believe that our Pledge of Allegiance with its use of the phrase "under God" is entirely consistent with our Nation's cultural and historic traditions. I also believe that the Court holding that use of this phrase is unconstitutional is wrong. But this court-stripping bill is not necessary. This legislation would bar a Federal court, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing any claim that challenges the recitation of the Pledge on first amendment grounds.

If we are a Nation of laws, we must be committed to allowing courts to decide what the law is. This bill is unnecessary and probably unconstitutional. It would contradict the principle of Marbury v. Madison, intrude on the principles of separation of powers, and degrade our independent Federal judiciary.

Opponents support voting NO because:

I was disappointed 4 years ago when two judges of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our Pledge, our statement of shared national values, was somehow unconstitutional. I do not take legislation that removes an issue from the jurisdiction of this court system lightly. This legislation is appropriate, however, because of the egregious conduct of the courts in dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance.

By striking "under God" from the Pledge, the Court has shown contempt for the Congress which approved the language, and, more importantly, shows a complete disregard for the millions of Americans who proudly recite the Pledge as a statement of our shared national values and aspirations. No one is required to recite the Pledge if they disagree with its message.

Reference: Watt amendment to Pledge Protection Act; Bill H R 2389 ; vote number 2006-384 on Jul 19, 2006

Voted NO on $84 million in grants for Black and Hispanic colleges.

This vote is on a substitute bill (which means an amendment which replaces the entire text of the original bill). Voting YES means support for the key differences from the original bill: lowering student loan interest rates; $59 million for a new Predominantly Black Serving Institution program; $25 million for a new graduate Hispanic Serving Institution program; provide for year- round Pell grants; and repeal the Single Lender rule. The substitute's proponents say:
  • The original bill has some critical shortcomings. First and foremost, this substitute will cut the new Pell Grant fixed interest rate in half from 6.8% to 3.4%, to reduce college costs to those students most in need.
  • It would also establish a new predominantly black-serving institutions programs to boost college participation rates for low-income black students, and a new graduate Hispanic-serving institution program.
  • As we saw from 1995 to 2000, the questions employers were asking was not your race, not your ethnicity, not your religion, they wanted to know if you had the skills and talents to do the job. Most often today, those skills and that talent requires a higher education. A college education is going to have to become as common as a high school education.
    Reference: Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act; Bill HR 609 Amendment 772 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 30, 2006

    Voted YES on allowing school prayer during the War on Terror.

    Children's Prayers Resolution: Expressing the sense of Congress that schools should allow children time to pray for, or silently reflect upon, the country during the war against terrorism.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Isakson, R-GA; Bill H.Con.Res.239 ; vote number 2001-445 on Nov 15, 2001

    Voted NO on requiring states to test students.

    No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Vote to pass a bill that would authorize $22.8 billion in education funding, a 29 percent increase from fiscal 2001. The bill would require states to test students to track progress.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Boehner R-OH; Bill HR 1 ; vote number 2001-145 on May 23, 2001

    Voted YES on allowing vouchers in DC schools.

    Vote to create a non-profit corporation to administer federally-funded vouchers for low-income children in the District of Columbia.
    Reference: Amendment introduced by Armey, R-TX; Bill HR 4380 ; vote number 1998-411 on Aug 6, 1998

    Voted YES on vouchers for private & parochial schools.

    Vote to pass a bill to allow states to use certain federal funds designated for elementary and secondary education to provide scholarships, or vouchers, to low-income families to send their children to private schools, including religious schools.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Riggs, R-CA; Bill HR 2746 ; vote number 1997-569 on Nov 4, 1997

    Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.

    Motion to add language to the "Goals 2000: Educate America Act" to give federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.
    Bill HR 1804 ; vote number 1994-85 on Mar 23, 1994

    Tax deductions for private scholarships to public schools.

    Sensenbrenner co-sponsored for tax deduction for private scholarships to public schools

    OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To allow an income tax credit for amounts contributed to charitable organizations which provide elementary or secondary school scholarships and for contributions for instructional materials and materials for extracurricular activities.

    SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Rep. PAUL: This act, a companion to my Family Education Freedom Act, takes a further step toward returning control over education resources to private citizens by providing a $3,000 tax credit for donations to scholarship funds to enable low-income children to attend private schools. It also encourages private citizens to devote more of their resources to helping public schools, by providing a $3,000 tax credit for cash or in-kind donations to public schools to support academic or extra curricular programs.

    Many of those who share my belief that the most effective education reform is to put parents back in charge of the education system have embraced government-funded voucher programs as a means to that end. I certainly sympathize with the goals of voucher proponents, but supporters of parental control of education should view Federal voucher programs with a high degree of skepticism because vouchers are a creation of the government, not the market. Vouchers are a taxpayer-funded program benefiting a particular group of children selected by politicians and bureaucrats. Therefore, the Federal voucher program supported by many conservatives is little more than another tax-funded welfare program establishing an entitlement to a private school education. Vouchers thus raise the same constitutional and moral questions as other transfer programs. A superior way of improving education is to return control of the education dollar directly to the American people through tax cuts and tax credits.

    LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to House Committee on Ways and Means; never came to a vote.

    Source: Education Improvement Tax Cut Act (H.R.611) 03-HR0611 on Feb 5, 2003

    Rated 8% by the NEA, indicating anti-public education votes.

    Sensenbrenner scores 8% by the NEA on public education issues

    The National Education Association has a long, proud history as the nation's leading organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Founded in 1857 "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States," the NEA has remained constant in its commitment to its original mission as evidenced by the current mission statement:

    To fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.
    In pursuing its mission, the NEA has determined that it will focus the energy and resources of its 2.7 million members toward the "promotion of public confidence in public education." The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
    Source: NEA website 03n-NEA on Dec 31, 2003

    Supports a Constitutional Amendment for school prayer.

    Sensenbrenner co-sponsored a resolution for a School Prayer Amendment:

    H.J.RES.52 (2001), H.J.RES.66 (1999), S.J.RES. 1, H.J.RES.12, H. J. RES. 108, & H. J. RES. 55:

    Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer . Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.
    H. J. RES. 78 (1997):
    To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, or traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. Neither the United States nor any State shall require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity, prescribe school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion.
    Source: H.J.Res.78 97-HJR78 on May 8, 1997

    2012 Governor, House and Senate candidates on Education: James Sensenbrenner on other issues:
    WI Gubernatorial:
    Scott Walker
    WI Senatorial:
    Ron Johnson
    Tammy Baldwin

    Left 113th Congress, 2013-2014:
    AL-1: Jo Bonner(R,resigned)
    FL-13:Bill Young(R,deceased)
    FL-19:Trey Radel(R,arrested)
    IL-2: Jesse L. Jackson(D,convicted)
    LA-5: Rodney Alexander(R,resigned)
    MA-5: Ed Markey(D,elected)
    MO-8: Jo Ann Emerson(R,resigned)
    NC-12:Mel Watt(D,appointed)
    NJ-1: Rob Andrews(D,investigated)
    SC-1: Tim Scott(R,appointed)

    Newly-elected special elections 2013-2014:
    AL-1: Bradley Byrne(R)
    FL-13:David Jolly(R)
    FL-19:Curt Clawson(R)
    IL-2: Robin Kelly(D)
    LA-5: Vance McAllister(R)
    MA-5: Katherine Clark(D)
    MO-8: Jason Smith(R)
    NC-12: Pending Jul.15
    NJ-1: Pending Nov.4
    SC-1: Mark Sanford(R)
    Won primary 2014:
    TX-4: John Ratcliffe(R)
    VA-7: Dave Brat(R)

    Retiring to run for Senate in 2014:
    AR-4: Tom Cotton(R)
    CO-4: Cory Gardner(R)
    GA-1: Jack Kingston(R)
    GA-10:Paul Broun(R)
    GA-11:Phil Gingrey(R)
    HI-1: Colleen Hanabusa(D)
    IA-1: Bruce Braley(D)
    LA-6: Bill Cassidy(R)
    MI-14:Gary Peters(D)
    MT-0: Steve Daines(R)
    OK-5: James Lankford(R)
    TX-36:Steve Stockman(R)
    WV-2: Shelley Moore Capito(R)

    Former Reps running for House in 2014:
    AL-5: Parker Griffith(R)
    CA-3: Doug Ose(R)
    GA-11:Bob Barr(R)
    CA-31:Joe Baca(D)
    IL-10:Bob Dold(R)
    IL-17:Bobby Schilling(R)
    MS-4: Gene Taylor(D)
    MT-0: Denny Rehberg(R)
    NH-1: Frank Guinta(R)
    NY-11:Vito Fossella(R)
    NY-18:Nan Hayworth(R)
    OH-7: John Boccieri(D)
    PA-13:Marjorie Margolies(D)
    TX-23:Francisco Canseco(R)
    Lost primary 2014:
    TX-4: Ralph Hall(R)
    VA-7: Eric Cantor(R)

    Retiring to run for State Office in 2014:
    AR-2: Tim Griffin(R)
    CA-35:Gloria McLeod(D)
    ME-2: Mike Michaud(D)
    PA-13:Allyson Schwartz(D)
    VI-0: Donna Christensen(D)

    Retiring effective Jan. 2015:
    AL-6: Spencer Bachus(R)
    AZ-7: Ed Pastor(D)
    CA-11:George Miller(D)
    CA-25:Howard McKeon(R)
    CA-31:Gary Miller(R)
    CA-33:Henry Waxman(D)
    CA-45:John Campbell(R)
    IA-3: Tom Latham(R)
    MI-4: Dave Camp(R)
    MI-6: Tom Petri(R)
    MI-12:John Dingell(D)
    MN-6: Michele Bachmann(R)
    NC-6: Howard Coble(R)
    NC-7: Mike McIntyre(D)
    NJ-3: Jon Runyan(R)
    NJ-12:Rush Holt(D)
    NY-4: Carolyn McCarthy(D)
    NY-21:Bill Owens(D)
    PA-6: Jim Gerlach(R)
    UT-4: Jim Matheson(D)
    VA-8: James Moran(D)
    VA-10:Frank Wolf(R)
    WA-4: Doc Hastings(R)
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    Page last updated: Jul 17, 2014