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Al Franken on Education

DFL Jr Senator (MN)

$5,000 tax credit to help people pay for college

Franken called for a $5,000 tax credit to help people pay for college.

“Why not a $10,000 tax credit? Why not $20,000?” asked Barkley. “Who’s going to pay for this? We’re broke. I’m not going to pander to people.”

Franken responded that the money spent would be equal to just a few weeks of the Iraq war and could be financed by reducing tax breaks for millionaires.

Source: 2008 MN Senate Debate reported in Star Tribune , Oct 17, 2008

No Child Left Behind law must be dramatically reformed

The No Child Left Behind law must be dramatically reformed or scrapped altogether. I’m for accountability, but I’m not for the deeply-flawed NCLB system. I once read about something called McNamara’s Fallacy. It goes like this: The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t easily be measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. In other words, instead of trying to measure what’s important, we end up deciding that whatever’s easiest to measure is most important. If we’re going to keep No Child Left Behind, we have to stop falling prey to McNamara’s Fallacy.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , May 14, 2008

Ideas for educational reforms that measure performance

Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , May 14, 2008

Fight to end unfunded mandates on education

When I get to Washington, someone is going to have to explain to me why we have unfunded mandates. It’s unconscionable that the federal government fails to live up to its commitments. Right now, the federal government only pays for 19% of special education costs--after promising to cover 40%. When I get to the Senate, I’ll fight to end unfunded mandates.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , May 14, 2008

Invest in early childhood education

It’s impossible to guarantee every child an equal opportunity in life--there are just too many factors (parents, economic status, talent) beyond our control. But we can & should guarantee every child a fair chance, and invest in early childhood education A child who’s been read to by the age of 5 has twice the vocabulary of a peer who hasn’t. Investment in early childhood education more than pays off in the long run. It’s time we invested in the earliest part of life instead of building more prisons.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , May 14, 2008

Restore Pell Grants

We should restore Pell Grants so that every American family can send its children to college without incurring a crushing burden of debt. When my wife’s sisters were attending college on Pell Grants, a full Pell Grant paid for 90% of a college education. Today, it’s less than 40%.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , May 14, 2008

Forgive loans for pledge to teach in under-served areas

Here’s an idea I heard from a student in Mankato: Let’s create an ROTC-style program for teachers. If a student pledges to teach a needed subject in a designated needy area for a certain amount of time (say, math in a poor rural district suffering from a shortage of math teachers), the federal government could forgive some or all of that student’s loans.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website,, “Issues” , Mar 9, 2008

Improve low-performing schools instead of punishing them