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Sens. Lieberman and Bayh Introduce Alternative Education Plan

Aired January 23, 2001 - 11:41 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington, we want to take you there now. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is now talking about introducing an alternative education program called the three Rs: reinvestment, reinvention and responsibility.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Our bottom line is all about important principles, not about specific programs. We believe we've got some good ideas to realize some great old ideals. Chief among them, the bedrock American promise of equal opportunity. But we don't pretend to have a monopoly on good ideas, and we're eager to work with both our fellow Democrats and Republicans to find the right balance.

There is no one road map to national education reform. But we believe that the third way that we present today is a good place to start and hopefully to end.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Well thank you very much for joining us ladies and gentlemen. I want to begin by thanking my colleagues for being with us here today. I want to note that it is Tom Carper's birthday.

You're aging gracefully.


SEN. TOM CARPER (D), DELAWARE: They just put me on the Aging Committee, so...


BAYH: Make the most of it. Make the most of it.

This gathering today is significant. It is both bicameral, and the support for our concepts will be bipartisan. I hope this shows we can break the gridlock of the recent past and pursue a two-track strategy in this Congress: working together for the benefit of the American people when we agree, while continuing to disagree on other matters over which consensus cannot be formed.

I want to commend the president of the United States for making education his top priority and for being committed to leaving no child behind. This is a priority also shared by the American people. And on behalf of myself and Tom, I want to thank the president for inviting us down to Austin several weeks ago to begin the bipartisan process of working on this issue in the current Congress.

Finally, and then I'll make very brief comments, following on Joe's, I want to thank Joe Lieberman. We would not be here today without his leadership and courage.

And, Joe, I just want to say, two years ago, when I was running for this office, I was asked repeatedly who I had admiration for in the united States Senate. And there many, many that I could name, but I always mentioned you. And I've seen nothing in the last two years to change my mind in any way. So I want to thank you for your leadership.

Let me be very brief. Joe covered the subject matter very well, so I'll just cut to the bottom line. We have an excellent opportunity to enact the most sweeping education reform since the 1960s. Breaking with the sterile orthodoxy of the past, in which too often the left said just spending more money was the answer to the problems facing our schools, and the right said the public schools could not be fixed and therefore should be abandoned.

Instead, we propose a consensus, a synthesis of ideas reflecting the best of both the right and the left to improve the quality of public education across our country, starting with, as Joe mentioned, accountability.

No longer will we define success merely in terms of how much we spend. Instead, we will now define success in terms of how much our children learn.

Flexibility, as he mentioned. We harness the genius of the federalist system in this country, giving states more authority to experiment, innovate, but at the same time insisting upon results. There is accountability and flexibility throughout the process, as long as our children learn more and do better.

Finally, our proposal harnesses market forces and embeds them in the public education system to encourage innovation and improvement and increased accountability without abandoning the public schools and those children who would not do well in a market-based system by going down the path of vouchers. Instead, we use charter schools, magnate schools and public school choice, again, using market forces within public education without abandoning our public school system.

Finally, let me just say that I think the political lay of the land is much improved for actually getting progress in this session of the Congress compared to the last. The election is now over. I think many of our colleagues will look for an answer to the problems afflicting our public schools, instead of just searching for an issue to be used in the next campaign.

The president of the United States has made this a top priority. And undoubtedly will be looking for an early victory to generate momentum on other issues, thereby making it possible that he will try and restrain the more extreme impulses of his colleagues in the Republican Party.

You see arrayed before you moderate Democrats are who extending the hand of cooperation to the new president. There are currently 10 senators who have endorsed our bill. We expect by the time it is introduced at the end of the week, there maybe as many as 12 to 15. Clearly enough to make progress if we get cooperation from the other side of the aisle.

So while there remain outstanding differences, which Joe articulated very well, I, for one, am very confident that we can make historic progress and together accomplish a landmark achievement toward improving the quality of public education.

And again, I'd like to thank all of my colleagues who have stepped forward to provide leadership on this matter.

Many peoples' presence is significant. John Kerry's presence I think should be noted because he has spent a lot of time working on this issue, had a proposal of his own, has now joined forces with us.

So, John, I want to thank you for your presence today.

HARRIS: And with that, we have heard Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Evan Bayh introducing their three Rs proposals for education reform. Senator Bayh calling this the most sweeping reform since the '60s. Both men mentioning the fact that we are looking at what may be the syntheses of the best ideas of both the right and the left. And that the landscape right now actually provides the best opportunity for some education reform.

Of course, the details on all of that will come in the coming days and coming hours even here on CNN.



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