Fred Thompson on Education

Former Republican Senator (TN)

The NEA opposes school choice; we must stop them

this country. We’re a nation of freedom and innovation and choice, and well-to-do people are out in the suburbs. They don’t seem to care that much. Inner city people need a chance to enjoy the choice that the mayor’s talking about for colleges and universities. Other people have choice too. If they’re wealthy enough to move into a neighborhood because they want their kid to go to school there, that’s choice too. Let’s give it to everybody else and let’s stop people from standing in the way of that
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate Dec 12, 2007

Use bully pulpit to support vouchers & homeschooling

Q: What should we do to improve the public schools?

A: First of all, I think we need to recognize where the responsibility lies. It would be easy enough for someone running for president to say: I have a several-point plan to fix our education problem. It’s not going to happen. And it shouldn’t happen from the Oval Office. We spend about 9% of education dollars now at the federal level. The responsibility historically and properly is at the state and local level. I think, however, we can do things that would support choice, do things that would support vouchers, do things that would support homeschooling, and recognize that we need to speak the truth. One of the advantages of being in the Oval Office is having a bully pulpit. And the fact of the matter is, if families would stay together, if fathers would raise their children, especially young men when they get into troublesome ages, we would solve a good part of the education problem in this country.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision Dec 9, 2007

Voted for No Child Left Behind, but critics were right

Q: You voted in favor of the No Child Left Behind law, though critics warned that it was too intrusive, too bureaucratic. They also warned that teachers would teach to the test.


Q: Now you say all those things are true. Was your vote a mistake

A: Yeah. I did vote for it, and some of those critics were right. And some of us were wrong. What has happened is that, indeed, states have taught to the test. We’ve not gotten the transparency and the accountability that we thought we were getting.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida Oct 21, 2007

Allow states to experiment with vouchers & charter schools

The federal government only is responsible for about 8% of what is spent [on education]. We need to concentrate on helping the states, making sure that 8% is spent wisely. But there are a lot of good things going on at the state level, you know, in terms of free markets, in terms of competition, and the things that work in the rest of our society, vouchers, charter schools, things of that nature. States ought to be allowed to experiment and do the things that they know best at the state and local level.
Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida Oct 21, 2007

Promote voucher programs & charter schools

The federal role in education is too intrusive and too bureaucratic, and has become part of the problem. State and local governments are closest to the parents, the kids, and the schools, and best situated to implement changes and innovations that best educate children. I am committed to:
Source: Campaign website, www.Fred08.com, “Issues” Sep 20, 2007

Encourage rights of parents to choose school

Schools continue to fail our children and endanger America’s future competitiveness. Increasing amounts of federal funding and government mandates have not resulted in real improvement. The federal government can assist state and localities through grants with fewer strings and less bureaucracy but should not take schools out of the hands of parents and local officials. We should encourage the rights of parents to choose the school and what’s best for their child’s education.
Source: Candidacy announcement speech Sep 6, 2007

Best reforms are not federal but local, like charters

Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.

Between 1970 and 2005, federal spending on education increased nearly 150% without results to match. The No Child Left Behind law itself increased federal funding by some 26%, while imposing more than $140 million in compliance time and costs.

A little more federalist confidence in the wisdom of state and local governments might go a long way toward improving America’s public schools. The most encouraging reforms in education are occurring at the local level, with options like charter schools. And often the best thing Washington can do is let the states, school districts, teachers and parents set their own policies and run their own schools.

Source: Campaign website, www.Fred08.com, “Principles” Sep 1, 2007

Voted NO 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 NO 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 NO 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 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 YES 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

Other candidates on Education: Fred Thompson on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010