Federal Federal File

A Farewell to Independents

By Erik W. Robelen — April 26, 2005 1 min read
Sen. James M. Jeffords will retire from his Capitol perch.

The Senate will be losing its only Independent voice. No doubt, many lawmakers would claim that title, but only one senator can do so with a capital “I.”

Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, the chamber’s sole Independent and a former chairman of the education committee, announced last week that he’s calling it quits. He won’t seek re-election to a fourth term next year.

He pointed to his wife Elizabeth Dailey’s battle with cancer as the main reason, but also cited his own health.

“I am feeling the aches and pains that come when you reach 70,” he said at an April 20 news conference in Vermont. “My memory fails me on occasion.”

Mr. Jeffords, a soft-spoken maverick, shook Washington in 2001 when he quit the Republican Party, tipping control of the Senate to the Democrats by one vote.

Life wasn’t always easy for Mr. Jeffords in the GOP fold. A moderate, he often disagreed with his party on critical issues, including education.

In a 2001 interview with Education Week, he said his influence with the Republican majority was limited even as head of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, a post he held from 1997 until he split with the GOP.

“In practical speaking, I wasn’t chairman,” he said, “so that’s one of the reasons I moved over.”

Once the Democrats took control, Mr. Jeffords relinquished his chairmanship to head another committee, but he stayed on the education panel. The Democrats’ hold on power was short-lived: The 2002 elections returned Senate control to the Republicans.

As a House freshman in 1975, Mr. Jeffords helped craft the landmark 1975 law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Since then, he’s worked on almost every major education bill in Congress. In 2001, he was one of just 10 senators to vote against the No Child Left Behind Act. One of his chief worries was whether the federal government would match the law’s mandates with enough money.

He recently reiterated those concerns when speaking of the president’s fiscal 2006 budget request.

“President Bush often mentions that education is a priority,” Mr. Jeffords said on the Senate floor on April 4. “He and I obviously define ‘priority’ differently. To me, priority means you pay for the promises you make.”

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal How Political Backlash to Critical Race Theory Reached School Reopening Guidance
A lawmaker wants Miguel Cardona to repudiate the Abolitionist Teaching Network after federal COVID-19 documents referenced the group's work.
6 min read
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.<br/>
Graeme Sloan/SIPA USA via AP
Federal Biden Team: Schools Can Go Beyond Trump Rules in Response to Alleged Sexual Misconduct
The Education Department's guidance, released July 20, states that Title IX rules from 2020 lay out "minimum steps" for educators.
3 min read
Symbols of gender.
Federal Fact Check: After Furor Over 1619 Project, Feds Adjust History and Civics Grant Plans
A previously obscure history and civics program has weathered a political storm, but what exactly has changed?
4 min read
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP
Federal 'Stop CRT' Bill, Votes in Congress Add to Political Drama Over Critical Race Theory
Sen. Tom Cotton's legislation and votes about critical race theory in the House underscore the issue's potency in Washington.
5 min read
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing to examine United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill March 25 in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP