Lloyd Bentsen More Often Friend Than Foe on Education Proposals

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During his 18-year career in the Senate, Lloyd Bentsen has rarely taken a leadership role on education issues.

The Democratic Vice Presidential nominee's committee positions--as chairman of the Finance Committee and as a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee--do not offer him much opportunity to influence education decisions.

When education issues reach the Senate floor, however, lobbyists generally see the Texas senator as a possible ally, who is more likely than not to vote with their interests.

"His record is generally favorable, though there are some areas where we have problems," said Edward Kealy, a lobbyist for the National School Boards Association. "He tends to be a fiscal conservative and often lines up with people trying to trim federal spending at the expense of education."

Voting Record Tallied

A vote analysis by the American Federation of Teachers shows that Mr. Bentsen supported the union's position on 74 percent of key votes during his career. The aft tally includes votes on labor, civil rights, and other issues as well as on education matters.

By contrast, Dan Quayle of Indiana, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, has supported the aft position on 13 percent of those votes since arriving in the Senate in 1981.

Mr. Bentsen's voting record looks "awfully good" in comparison with Mr. Quayle's, said Gregory Humphrey of the aft

Mr. Bentsen has consistently voted to protect impact aid, but has compiled a mixed record on funding for such programs as Chapter 1 and child nutrition.

He also voted in support of the 1979 legislation that created the Education Department. During Senate consideration of that measure, he opposed amendments that would have allowed a majority of school districts to veto the department's regulations, required schools to obtain parental approval for sex-education programs, and forced the new department to guarantee school employees' rights not to join unions.

Social Issues

Education lobbyists praise the Texas senator for opposing tuition tax credits and other aid to private schools, but are less pleased with his record on other "social issues."

Mr. Bentsen has voted dozens of times for measures curbing busing for school desegregation.

In 1984, he voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow organized prayer in schools.

His school-prayer position had8been more complex when the issue came up during consideration of the bill creating the ed

He first voted for an amendment that would have barred federal courts from reviewing state school-prayer laws. Later, however, he backed a successful move to effectively kill the prayer proposal by attaching it to a separate, moribund bill.

Civil Rights

Lobbyists also praise Mr. Bentsen's record on civil-rights issues. He supported several measures in the 1970s barring sex discrimination, for example.

More recently, he voted to override President Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, and against the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, which civil-rights groups strongly opposed.

Mr. Bentsen voted in 1971 against legislation barring federal aid to racially discriminatory schools. Eight years later, however, he voted against a measure that prohibited the Internal Revenue Service from issuing regulations revoking the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory schools.

Tax Issues

From his seat on the Finance Committee, Mr. Bentsen played a key role in drafting the 1986 tax-reform bill, in which some education interests were at stake.

Education advocates faulted him for voting in committee to end feder4al deductibility of state sales taxes. But they said he did not lobby actively for or against their interests and devoted his energies to guarding tax incentives for oil companies.

When the tax bill was debated on the Senate floor, Mr. Bentsen voted against restoring charitable deductions for taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions--an important issue for private schools. But he backed an effort to retain the three-year recovery rule for public-employee pensions, which education groups sought without success.

Vol. 08, Issue 08

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