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Lamar Alexander on Education

Republican Sr Senator (TN); previously candidate for President


1985: Raised state taxes to improve education

The summer governors' conference, held in Idaho, was marked by an unusual partisan fight over a fund-raising letter for the Republican governors signed by President Reagan. The letter took some hard shots at their Democratic colleagues for being too liberal with tax-and-spend policies, a violation of our unwritten commitment to keep the governors' meetings bipartisan. The Democrats were so angry we threatened to block the election of Republican governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to the chairmanship of the National Governors Association, normally a routine action since he was the vice chair and the chairmanship rotated by party every year. I liked Lamar and doubted he had his heart in the attack on his Democratic colleagues; after all, he, too, had raised taxes to fund higher school standards. I helped to broker a resolution to the conflict, in which the Republicans apologized for the letter & said they wouldn't do it again, an we voted for Lamar for chairman. I was elected vice chair.
Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.319 , Jun 21, 2004

Allow organized voluntary prayer in public schools

We believe that two words will almost never get guns out of school are federal law, and two words that almost always will are personal responsibility.. We believe that it is wrong to burn the flag, and that 1.5 million abortions a year is a tragic number. We believe that if Congress can start its day with prayer, then surely we can find a minute of silence n a school day when children who wish to can voluntarily pray.
Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.311 , Aug 12, 1995

Federal funding for HOPE scholarships for grade school

By fixing public education, I mean this: Send the Washington bureaucrats home, and send their money to the states, the classrooms and especially to parents, in the form of HOPE scholarships for the children. Let parents decide which school is best for their children. College-age students with scholarships can use the HOPE scholarships at the college of their choice. If a federal HOPE scholarship is good enough for an 18-year-old, it is good enough for a six-year-old.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

More teacher pay; but end tenure

As President, I would lead a movement state by state to transform our public schools, to pay good teachers more, to end teacher tenure so no child is made to be in a classroom with an incompetent teacher. Our schools can be the best in the world. What is missing is the political will to put practical reforms in place. As President, I would supply that will.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Support public schools with local control

We don’t have an education problem in this country - we have a political problem. We know exactly what to do in order to make our schools the best in the world, we just don’t have the leadership and the political will to do it. We are for public education - plain and simple. We are for local control of schools. We are for spending money on education as long as it is spent effectively and efficiently. We are for paying good teachers more for teaching well and ending tenure for bad teachers.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Test for high standards for teachers and students

We are for high, solid standards, developed by states, then amplified and improved locally by individual schools. We are for tests keyed to those high standards, and serious accountability -- tests that measure what teachers are teaching and what students are learning -- not to punish students who aren’t achieving but to identify those students who need help.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Replace bilingual education with “English for Children”

Succeeding in America means mastering our common language. The creation of “English for the Children” scholarships would take the place of failed bilingual education programs. Bilingual education [funds] should be distributed to middle- and low-income families of children who can’t read and speak English proficiently. Parents could use these scholarships at public schools, private schools, after-school programs and any other accredited program they believe will help their child learn English.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Create Education Savings Accounts

We should give parents incentives to save for their children’s education expenses. Education Savings Accounts would allow parents to contribute up to $2,000 each year in after-tax dollars. These accounts would grow tax-free and could be used for elementary or secondary education as well as for college expenses.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999


Lamar Alexander on School Choice

Charter schools make public education better

The bottom line is that charter schools work and they are making public education better. They are freeing our children to learn, and they are freeing up educators to redefine what public schooling means. We are for spending money on education as long as it is spent effectively and efficiently.
Source: LamarAlexander.com Exploratory Committee web-site , Jul 2, 1999

Regulate all public schools like charter schools

Teachers and principals are suffocating under court-ordered union rules and government regulations. They need more freedom, not more regulation. And, it is time to give every public school the same freedom from regulations that charter schools have.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Public scholarships for charter or private schools

Local control doesn’t just mean a local school board. It can mean an independent, public charter school or a parent with a scholarship to take their child to the school of their choice. The bottom line is that charter schools work and they are making public education better.. Congress should create a Hope Scholarship for children in middle and low income families to send their child to the school - public, private or religious - that they think is best.
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

$1,500 scholarship for poor kids to attend any school

All children have the right to a good, safe, neighborhood school. I support the creation of a Hope Scholarship for Children that would take the power of federal education bureaucrats and put it in the hands of parents in the form of a $1,500 scholarship for low- and middle-income children. Participation in this 5-year, $2 billion program would be voluntary for cities and states, and parents would have the freedom to take their scholarship money to the public, private or religious schools of their choice
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Pass Model Charter School Laws in all 50 states

The number of independent public charter schools is exploding, but not all charter schools are created equal. The number and quality of charter schools in a state depends on the strength of its charter school law. I’d like to see passage of charter school laws in all 50 states that allow any individual, group or organization to propose a school, exempt these schools from most state & local regulations, except safety & civil rights laws, and allow an unlimited number of charter schools to be created
Source: www.LamarAlexander.org/issue , May 25, 1999

Give school decisions back to families

We will never get our country back on track and our revolution unstuck without a focus on education. I would move all the elementary education and secondary education decisions back to you-out of Washington and back to families & classrooms & parents. Then I would become the chief spokesman for radical change in our schools-school choice, pay more for teaching well, open the schools, and higher academic standards. That is what we need in the President.
Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.313 , Aug 12, 1995

Voted YES on additional $10.2B for federal education & HHS projects.

Vote on the passage of the bill, the American Competitiveness Scholarship Act, the omnibus appropriations bill for the Departments of Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. Pres. Bush then vetoed the Bill.

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 and 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 H.R. 3043 ; vote number 2007-391 on Oct 23, 2007

Voted NO on $52M for "21st century community learning centers".

To increase appropriations for after-school programs through 21st century community learning centers. Voting YES would increase funding by $51.9 million for after school programs run by the 21st century community learning centers and would decrease funding by $51.9 million for salaries and expenses in the Department of Labor.
Reference: Amendment to Agencies Appropriations Act; Bill S Amdt 2287 to HR 3010 ; vote number 2005-279 on Oct 27, 2005

Voted NO on $5B for grants to local educational agencies.

To provide an additional $5 billion for title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Voting YES would provide:
Reference: Elementary and Secondary Education Amendment; Bill S Amdt 2275 to HR 3010 ; vote number 2005-269 on Oct 26, 2005

Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education.

Vote to adopt an amendment to the Senate's 2006 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution that would adjust education funding while still reducing the deficit by $5.4 billion. A YES vote would:
Reference: Kennedy amendment relative to education funding; Bill S AMDT 177 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-68 on Mar 17, 2005

Rated 27% by the NEA, indicating anti-public education votes.

Alexander scores 27% 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

Support the goals and ideals of Charter Schools.

Alexander co-sponsored supporting the goals and ideals of Charter Schools

Legislative Outcome: Related bills: H.RES.344, H.RES.1168, S.RES.556; agreed to in Senate, by Unanimous Consent.
Source: S.RES.183 07-SR556 on May 1, 2007

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

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Page last updated: Dec 24, 2013