James Sensenbrenner on Education
Republican Representative (WI-5)
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Bishop, R-UT]: In 1996, Congress insisted upon a charter school program in DC. You will hear from both sides of the aisle recognition of the great value that that program has, and justifiably so. There is a waiting list in DC for those charter schools. This bill increases the percentage of funding going to charter schools in the District. In 2003, an Opportunity Scholarship was instituted, at the insistence of Congress. Again, there was a waiting list of people wanting the opportunity; disadvantaged kids who wanted the opportunity that this scholarship afforded them. There were 216 kids at the time scheduled to enter the program who were not allowed; the bill remedies that.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Hastings, D-FL]: In the last 41 years voters have rejected private school vouchers every time they have been proposed. In 1981, 89% of the people in a referendum in DC voted against vouchers. So how dare we come here to tell these people that we are going to thrust upon them something they don't want without a single public official in this community being consulted. Congress' oversight of the District is not an excuse for political pandering to the Republicans' special interest of the day du jour.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Rep. BETSY MARKEY (D, CO-4): This legislation will improve the learning environment for our children, reduce energy costs and create new jobs across the country. Green schools not only save school districts money but also teach the importance of sustainable living to children at a young age.
Opponent's argument to vote No: Rep. GLENN THOMPSON (R, PA-5): We all know our Nation is drowning in a sea of red ink. The bill we're debating today would add an estimated $40 billion in new spending. And despite the majority's hollow promises of fiscal responsibility, there's nothing in the legislation to offset this hefty price tag with spending reductions elsewhere. This is just more of the same borrow and spend, spend and borrow policy that we've seen under this majority and this administration.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Rep. OBEY: This bill, more than any other, determines how willing we are to make the investment necessary to assure the future strength of this country and its working families. The President has chosen to cut the investments in this bill by more than $7.5 billion in real terms. This bill rejects most of those cuts.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Rep. LEWIS: This bill reflects a fundamental difference in opinion on the level of funding necessary to support the Federal Government's role in education, health and workforce programs. The bill is $10.2 billion over the President's budget request. While many of these programs are popular on both sides of the aisle, this bill contains what can rightly be considered lower priority & duplicative programs. For example, this legislation continues three different programs that deal with violence prevention. An omnibus bill is absolutely the wrong and fiscally reckless approach to completing this year's work. It would negate any semblance of fiscal discipline demonstrated by this body in recent years.
Veto message from President Bush:
This bill spends too much. It exceeds [by $10.2 billion] the reasonable and responsible levels for discretionary spending that I proposed to balance the budget by 2012. This bill continues to fund 56 programs that I proposed to terminate because they are duplicative, narrowly focused, or not producing results. This bill does not sufficiently fund programs that are delivering positive outcomes. This bill has too many earmarks--more than 2,200 earmarks totaling nearly $1 billion. I urge the Congress to send me a fiscally responsible bill that sets priorities.
Proponents support voting YES because:
I believe that our Pledge of Allegiance with its use of the phrase "under God" is entirely consistent with our Nation's cultural and historic traditions. I also believe that the Court holding that use of this phrase is unconstitutional is wrong. But this court-stripping bill is not necessary. This legislation would bar a Federal court, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing any claim that challenges the recitation of the Pledge on first amendment grounds.
If we are a Nation of laws, we must be committed to allowing courts to decide what the law is. This bill is unnecessary and probably unconstitutional. It would contradict the principle of Marbury v. Madison, intrude on the principles of separation of powers, and degrade our independent Federal judiciary.
Opponents support voting NO because:
I was disappointed 4 years ago when two judges of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our Pledge, our statement of shared national values, was somehow unconstitutional. I do not take legislation that removes an issue from the jurisdiction of this court system lightly. This legislation is appropriate, however, because of the egregious conduct of the courts in dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance.
By striking "under God" from the Pledge, the Court has shown contempt for the Congress which approved the language, and, more importantly, shows a complete disregard for the millions of Americans who proudly recite the Pledge as a statement of our shared national values and aspirations. No one is required to recite the Pledge if they disagree with its message.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To allow an income tax credit for amounts contributed to charitable organizations which provide elementary or secondary school scholarships and for contributions for instructional materials and materials for extracurricular activities.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Rep. PAUL: This act, a companion to my Family Education Freedom Act, takes a further step toward returning control over education resources to private citizens by providing a $3,000 tax credit for donations to scholarship funds to enable low-income children to attend private schools. It also encourages private citizens to devote more of their resources to helping public schools, by providing a $3,000 tax credit for cash or in-kind donations to public schools to support academic or extra curricular programs.
Many of those who share my belief that the most effective education reform is to put parents back in charge of the education system have embraced government-funded voucher programs as a means to that end. I certainly sympathize with the goals of voucher proponents, but supporters of parental control of education should view Federal voucher programs with a high degree of skepticism because vouchers are a creation of the government, not the market. Vouchers are a taxpayer-funded program benefiting a particular group of children selected by politicians and bureaucrats. Therefore, the Federal voucher program supported by many conservatives is little more than another tax-funded welfare program establishing an entitlement to a private school education. Vouchers thus raise the same constitutional and moral questions as other transfer programs. A superior way of improving education is to return control of the education dollar directly to the American people through tax cuts and tax credits.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to House Committee on Ways and Means; never came to a vote.
The National Education Association has a long, proud history as the nation's leading organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Founded in 1857 "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States," the NEA has remained constant in its commitment to its original mission as evidenced by the current mission statement:
To fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.In pursuing its mission, the NEA has determined that it will focus the energy and resources of its 2.7 million members toward the "promotion of public confidence in public education." The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Heritage Action Summary: An amendment offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). The amendment, known as A-PLUS (Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success), would give the states the ability to consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial.
Heritage Foundation recommendation to vote YES: (7/8/2015): A-PLUS lets states escape No Child Left Behind's prescriptive programmatic requirements. At its core, A-PLUS delivers on the promise of "restoring state and local control over the 10% of education funding financed by the federal government," moving dollars out of the hands of federal bureaucrats and political appointees and into the hands of those closer to the students. Now is the time for Congress to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students instead of bureaucrats and unions, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all.
US News and World Report recommendation to vote NO: (4/7/2015): A-PLUS [is intended as] a no-strings-attached block grant. There isn't all that much the federal government can do well in education, but it's because of federally-required transparency that charter schools and voucher schools can demonstrate that they work. For example, New York City's Success Academy scores in the top 1% of all the state's public schools in math and in the top 3% in English. When Success Academy came under fire from teachers' union-backed Mayor Bill de Blasio, it was able to fight back with numbers to prove it. If a strong-union state were to receive a no-strings-attached block grant, transparency would be the first thing to go. A no-strings-attached block grant is an overreaction to federal overreach.
Legislative outcome: Failed House 195 to 235 (no Senate vote)
Heritage Action Summary: The House will vote to reauthorize the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act (H.R. 10). The bill would continue funding through Fiscal Year 2021 and allow eligible students in Washington, D.C. to enroll in a participating private school.Analysis by Heritage Action:
ACLU recommendation to vote NO: (Letter to U.S.House, 3/29/2011): The ACLU urges Congress to oppose the SOAR Act, legislation to restart and expand Washington DC's failed private and religious school voucher pilot program. Originally started as a five-year pilot program in 2004, the DC voucher program is the nation's first and only federally-funded private and religious school voucher program. Under the federal voucher pilot program, funds were provided to schools even though they infuse their curricular materials with specific religious content and even though they are not covered by many of the nation's civil rights statutes that would otherwise protect students against discrimination. Additionally, each of the congressionally-mandated studies to explore the pilot program concluded that the voucher program had no significant effect on the academic achievement.
Cato Institute recommendation to vote YES: (4/28/2016): The Obama administration has repeatedly worked to undermine or eliminate the DC school choice program, even though it has the support of local Democratic politicians such as the DC Mayor and a majority of the DC City Council. Low-income students shouldn't be condemned to low-quality schools just because their parents cannot afford a home in a wealthy neighborhood. The DC program was an important step toward breaking the link between home prices and school quality.
Legislative outcome: Passed by the House 240-191-3; never came to a vote in the Senate.
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to restore and make permanent the income tax exclusion of amounts paid under employer-provided educational assistance programs for employees.
H.J.RES.52 (2001), H.J.RES.66 (1999), S.J.RES. 1, H.J.RES.12, H. J. RES. 108, & H. J. RES. 55:
Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer . Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.H. J. RES. 78 (1997):
To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, or traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. Neither the United States nor any State shall require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity, prescribe school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion.
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