Federal File

January 22, 2003 1 min read

The president of Stamford High School’s class of 1960 returned last week to his alma mater to announce a higher ambition: his plans to seek the U.S. presidency in 2004.

Joseph I. Lieberman

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut—who has shown a keen interest in education issues—picked the Stamford, Conn., school to kick off his campaign for the Democratic nomination. His speech, however, barely touched on education.

Instead, he focused on foreign policy, the economy, and other issues.

Mr. Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, also talked more broadly about his vision for this country. Echoing former President Clinton, he said the promise of America is that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you can go as far as your God-given talents will take you.”

But, he said, “today, the American dream is in danger, threatened by terrorists and tyrants from abroad and a weak economy that makes it harder to live a better life here at home.” He also made repeated references to the need to “rise above partisan politics.”

Mr. Lieberman’s only direct reference to education was when he mentioned “fixing our failing schools” as one of his priorities.

Mr. Lieberman played a significant role in the effort last year to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, even though he does not serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The final “No Child Left Behind” law embraced key elements of a plan he put forward.

Earlier this month, he joined other Democrats in attacking President Bush’s budget plans for education, which they argued are insufficient to meet the demands of the new law. He, along with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, spearheaded a letter to Mr. Bush urging fiscal 2003 education spending about $7 billion above his request.

Sen. Lieberman parts company with many Democrats on school vouchers. He has long advocated setting up an experimental program of private school tuition aid, having repeatedly pushed a plan that would provide publicly financed vouchers to needy students from the District of Columbia. Last week, he reaffirmed his support for such experiments.

—Erik W. Robelen