John Kerry has been on both sides of education issues, reports Education Week.
Perhaps most noteworthy was a controversial speech in 1998 in which he delivered some barbed words for teachers’ unions and public school “bureaucracies.” He called for making every public school “essentially a charter school,” free from the rules that typically govern teacher hiring and placement decisions, and for ending “teacher tenure as we know it.”
Union officials complained, and Kerry backed down. He has a “near-perfect” voting record on education, says a teachers’ union official.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Kerry so far is sticking to generally liberal themes that find favor with core Democratic constituencies. He opposes school vouchers and advocates plans for increasing federal education aid, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals, and expanding early-childhood support.
Like most of his rivals for the nomination, he’s also been criticizing the No Child Left Behind Act, calling for a rewrite of the federal law’s accountability demands — the very features he praised shortly before he cast an “aye” vote on the bill in 2001.
Kerry is calling for a “national education trust fund” — a 21st century lockbox — that would guarantee “substantial spending increases for special education and the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Education Week offers some Kerry quotes:
Speech at Northeastern University, Boston, June 1998:
“We can’t afford to be uncritical apologists for public schools that work for our bureaucrats, but not for our kids . . .
“Let’s make every public school in this country essentially a charter school within the public school system. Let’s give every school the chance to quickly and easily put in place the best of what works … with decentralized control, site-based management, parental engagement, and high levels of volunteerism. …
Address on U.S. Senate floor, December 2001:
“I am convinced that a strong accountability system is the linchpin of [the No Child Left Behind Act]. For the first time, the federal government will put into place an accountability system that will hold states, schools, and districts accountable for steadily improving the learning of their children and closing the achievement gap between rich and poor and between minorities and nonminorities. …
“Another key component of this bill is the expansion of public school choice and charter schools. … I believe that choice and competition within the public school system are vital ingredients to increasing accountability and improving our schools. …
Campaign speech, Council Bluffs, Iowa, November 2003:
“I will hold George Bush accountable for making a mockery of the words ‘Leave No Child Behind.’ And my National Education Trust Fund will guarantee our schools get the funding they need and the funding they deserve. And then I will go further with important changes to this law to make sure students can reach high standards. That means judging schools on more than just test scores. It means rewarding, not punishing, the states that make progress and implement high standards. …
“I have never supported vouchers. I will never support them. And if it ever comes to my desk, I’ll veto vouchers or voucher-like programs the day that bill arrives.”
Kerry’s campaign has no details on how he would redesign the accountability provisions of NCLB.