Joseph Lieberman on Education

Democratic Jr Senator (CT, retiring 2012), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 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

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

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

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

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: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test , Jan 8, 2004

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

Joseph Lieberman on Voting Record

Voted against school prayer; for condom distribution

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

Voted for vouchers; against block grants

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 , Mar 2, 2000

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 YES 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 YES 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 YES 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

Voted YES on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors.

Vote to authorize a federal program aimed at reducing class size. The plan would assist states and local education agencies in recruiting, hiring and training 100,000 new teachers, with $2.4 billion in fiscal 2002. This amendment would replace an amendment allowing parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.
Reference: Bill S1 ; vote number 2001-103 on May 15, 2001

Voted YES on funding student testing instead of private tutors.

Vote to pass an amendment that would authorize $200 million to provide grants to help states develop assessment systems that describe student achievement. This amendment would replace an amendment by Jeffords, R-VT, which would allow parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.
Reference: Bill S1 ; vote number 2001-99 on May 10, 2001

Voted YES on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction.

Vote to reduce the size of the $1.6 trillion tax cut by $448 billion while increasing education spending by $250 billion and providing an increase of approximately $224 billion for debt reduction over 10 years.
Reference: Bill H Con Res 83 ; vote number 2001-69 on Apr 4, 2001

Voted YES on Educational Savings Accounts.

Vote to pass a bill that would permit tax-free savings accounts of up to $2000 per child annually to be used for public or private school tuition or other education expenses.
Reference: Bill S.1134 ; vote number 2000-33 on Mar 2, 2000

Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools.

Vote to declare that erecting religious symbols and praying on public school campuses as part of a memorial service does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, and to provide legal assistance to any government entity defending such a case.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-121 on May 18, 1999

Voted NO on allowing more flexibility in federal school rules.

This vote was a motion to invoke cloture on a bill aimed at allowing states to waive certain federal rules normally required in order to use federal school aid. [A YES vote implies support of charter schools and vouchers].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)55; N)39; NV)6
Reference: Motion to Invoke cloture on Jeffords Amdt #31; Bill S. 280 ; vote number 1999-35 on Mar 9, 1999

Voted YES on education savings accounts.

This Conference Report approved tax-sheltered education savings accounts.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)59; N)36; NV)5
Reference: H.R. 2646 Conference Report; Bill H.R. 2646 ; vote number 1998-169 on Jun 24, 1998

Voted YES on school vouchers in DC.

This legislation would have amended the DC spending measure, imposing an unconstitutional school voucher program on the District.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)58; N)41; NV)1
Reference: DC Appropriations Act; Bill S. 1156 ; vote number 1997-260 on Sep 30, 1997

Voted NO on $75M for abstinence education.

Vote to retain a provision of the Budget Act that funds abstinence education to help reduce teenage pregnancy, using $75 million of the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Program.
Reference: Bill S 1956 ; vote number 1996-231 on Jul 23, 1996

Voted NO on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer.

Cut off federal funds to school districts that deny students their right to constitutionally protected voluntary prayer.
Reference: Bill S.1513 ; vote number 1994-236 on Jul 27, 1994

Voted YES on national education standards.

Approval of national education standards.
Status: Bill Passed Y)71; N)25; NV)4
Reference: Goals 2000: Educate America Act; Bill H.R. 1804 ; vote number 1994-34 on Feb 8, 1994

Offer every parent Charter Schools and public school choice.

Lieberman signed 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

Firmly opposed to Bush’s voucher proposal.

Lieberman signed the Senate New Democrat Coalition letter to Pres.-Elect Bush:

Dear President-Elect Bush,

As members of the Senate New Democrat Coalition and the House New Democrat Coalition, our first and foremost [priority is] education reform. As you know, a bicameral group of New Democrats introduced the “3 Rs” legislation last year. The “3Rs” bill is an example of the kind of bold, innovative approach that can form the basis of a bipartisan agreement to reform our public schools and boost the opportunities of our public schools. We are also well aware that you have endorsed a similar plan. While we remain firmly opposed to the voucher portion of your proposal, we believe that there are many areas of similarity in both approaches, providing an excellent opportunity for bipartisan agreement and compromise. We intend to re-introduce the “3Rs” legislation at the earliest opportunity later this month, and we look forward to working with you.

Source: Senate New Democrat Coalition letter to Pres.-Elect Bush 01-SNDC1 on Jan 11, 2001

Three R’s: $35B for Reinvestment,Reinvention,Responsibility.

Lieberman wrote the Senate New Democrat Coalition Press Release:

The Public Education Reinvestment, Reinvention and Responsibility Act (Three R's) [is] the common ground from which bipartisan compromise on education reform will be successfully achieved. The Three R’s would provide public schools with significantly increased funding and flexibility, increasing federal investment in education by $35 billion over the next 5 years, and targeting most of those new dollars toward closing the persistent achievement gap between poor and more affluent students. State & local officials would be given broader latitude to decide how to allocate federal funding in order to meet the specific needs of their communities. In return, states would be required to set standards for raising academic achievement, and improve the quality of their teachers.

Source: Senate New Democrat Coalition Press Release 01-SNDC5 on Jan 23, 2001

Rated 86% by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes.

Lieberman scores 86% 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.

Lieberman 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: Joseph Lieberman on other issues:
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