Ballot Box: Gore on education; Alexander on Gore; Perot's plan; Perot's gaffe

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While Bill Clinton, the Democratic Presidential nominee, is known nationally for his work on education issues, he chose a running mate with virtually no education record.

Senator Al Gore of Tennessee is known on Capitol Hill as an expert on foreign policy, arms control, and environmental issues. He has never served on an education-related committee.

However, education lobbyists say his voting record on education programs and funding has generally been favorable to their interests.

As a Presidential candidate in 1987, Mr. Gore gained some notoriety when he said the first thing he would do to aid schools would be to tell William J. Bennett, then the Secretary of Education, to "start cleaning out his desk,'' and appoint a teacher to succeed him.

Mr. Gore made the comments in an education debate that included all the 1988 Democratic hopefuls. He also said the nation should "turn toward teachers for more ideas on how to improve the performance of schools'' and should "professionalize'' teaching, but should also ask teachers "to show us tangible results and hold them accountable.''

In that campaign, Mr. Gore also supported increased federal spending on education, a longer school year, and tax exemptions to help families save for college expenses.

Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, who served eight years as governor of Tennessee, apparently received enough requests to comment on Mr. Clinton's selection of a Tennessean for his ticket that he felt obliged to respond.

The terse statement issued by the Secretary's office read: "Al Gore is a good friend. I wish him well, but I prefer him as a United States Senator.''

Ross Perot, who announced last month that he would not run as an independent candidate for President, was prepared to announce a radical plan to deal with the federal deficit with a package of tax increases and spending cuts. It has not been officially released, but it reportedly calls for both cuts and new investment in education.

According to U.S. News and World Report, which obtained a complete copy of the Perot plan, the Texas billionaire was to propose cutting all domestic discretionary spending by 10 percent. But his plan would also devote $109 million to establishing a national student-testing system.

Had Mr. Perot made a formal run for the Presidency, he would likely have faced questions about his stance on education of the handicapped.

Disability-rights advocates were incensed earlier this summer when they learned that Mr. Perot had apparently once argued that schools spend a "disproportionate'' amount of time and resources serving disabled and other hard-to-educate children, and not enough on gifted students.

In an article Mr. Perot circulated to newspapers in 1983, he wrote that schools focus too much on "problem students, students with learning disabilities, and students who cannot learn at all,'' The Dallas Morning News reported.

Instead, he wrote, schools should focus on the students who "are our future taxpayers.''

In 1983, Mr. Perot was leading a commission studying Texas education reform. The article laid out a wide range of opinions on the state's educational woes. Excerpts appeared in the Dallas newspaper then, but the comments about "problem students'' were not among them. The paper reported that a complete copy of the article had been mailed anonymously to the newsroom.

Thomas Luce, Mr. Perot's campaign chairman, told The Associated Press that the comments quoted by the Dallas newspaper did not reflect the billionaire's views.

Some sources who worked with Mr. Perot on the Texas commission said they recall his voicing concerns about the amount of funding that was devoted to special education.

The commission's recommendations did not touch on special education.

Vol. 11, Issue 40, Page 37

Published in Print: August 5, 1992, as Ballot Box: Gore on education; Alexander on Gore; Perot's plan; Perot's gaffe
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