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Harold Ford on Education

Former Democratic Representative (TN-9, 1997-2007)


Education needs equivalent of Interstate highway system

Q: Tennessee ranks high on transportation but low on education. What will you do?

FORD: Sen. Al Gore Senior worked with Pres. Eisenhower to build the Interstate highway system, which was enormously important to commerce. We need a similar approach with education. For us to win the international educational competition, we’ve got to ensure that you have the best opportunities. My opponent’s party has made Pell Grants more expensive. My opponent’s party funded the No-Child-Left-Behind Act at half its promised level. We should not penalize any school until NCLB is fully funded.

CORKER: Education is the key to our future. As mayor, I worked with teachers to put in place some unusual policies that helped them flourish. Here in Chattanooga, we put in place incentives--bonuses for high-performing teachers who caused the things that ought to happen. What we saw was that those schools outperformed the other schools. I want to take those abilities at education achievement to Washington.

Source: 2006 TN Senate debate, at University of Chattanooga Oct 10, 2006

Keep words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance

Ford said he is in favor of keeping the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Source: Campaign website, www.haroldfordjr.com, press release Jan 20, 2006

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 YES 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 YES 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 NO 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 NO 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 NO 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

    Offer every parent Charter Schools and public school choice.

    Ford adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

    Create World-Class Public Schools
    Now more than ever, quality public education is the key to equal opportunity and upward mobility in America. Yet our neediest children often attend the worst schools. While lifting the performance of all schools, we must place special emphasis on strengthening those institutions serving, and too often failing, low-income students.

    To close this achievement and opportunity gap, underperforming public schools need more resources, and above all, real accountability for results. Accountability means ending social promotion, measuring student performance with standards-based assessments, and testing teachers for subject-matter competency.

    As we demand accountability, we should ensure that every school has the resources needed to achieve higher standards, including safe and modern physical facilities, well-paid teachers and staff, and opportunities for remedial help after school and during summers. Parents, too, must accept greater responsibility for supporting their children’s education.

    We need greater choice, competition, and accountability within the public school system, not a diversion of public funds to private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. With research increasingly showing the critical nature of learning in the early years, we should move toward universal access to pre-kindergarten education.

    Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC2 on Aug 1, 2000

    Reduce class size to 18 children in grades 1 to 3.

    Ford co-sponsored an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:

      Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to establish a grants program to:

    1. recruit, train, and hire 100,000 additional teachers over a seven-year period ;

    2. reduce class sizes nationally, in grades one through three, to an average of 18 students per classroom; and

    3. improve teaching in the early grades so that all students can learn to read independently and well by the end of the third grade.
    Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1036 on Mar 14, 2001

    Rated 91% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes.

    Ford scores 91% 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

    Make employee educational assistance tax-deductible.

    Ford co-sponsored making employee educational assistance tax-deductible

    To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to restore and make permanent the income tax exclusion of amounts paid under employer-provided educational assistance programs for employees.

    Source: Employee Educational Assistance Act (H.R.127) 1993-H127 on Jan 5, 1993

    Other candidates on Education: Harold Ford on other issues:
    TN Gubernatorial:
    Bill Haslam
    TN Senatorial:
    Bob Corker
    Lamar Alexander

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    Page last updated: Nov 26, 2010