Marsha Blackburn on Education

Republican Representative (TN-7)


Supports vouchers for private schools

Q: Provide public support for parents to choose private schools for their children?

Marsha Blackburn (R): Yes, has voted for vouchers.

Phil Bredesen (D): No. Supports charter schools but "not wild about vouchers."

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Tennessee Senate race , Oct 9, 2018

Don't lower student loan interest

Q: Refinance student loans at lower rates?

Marsha Blackburn (R): No. Voted against earlier proposal to refinance student loans.

Phil Bredesen (D): Some level of support. "I'm someone who went to school with student loans, but they were much lower interest than these student loans & longer pay-out times."

Q: Should federal student financial aid, like Pell Grants, be increased?

Marsha Blackburn (R): Unknown.

Phil Bredesen (D): Unclear, but earlier pushed for free community college tuition.

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Tennessee Senate race , Oct 9, 2018

Voted YES on reauthorizing the DC opportunity scholarship program.

Congressional Summary:The SOAR Act award five-year grants on a competitive basis to nonprofit organizations to carry out an expanded school choice opportunities to students who are District of Columbia residents and who come from households:
  1. receiving assistance under the supplemental nutrition assistance program; or
  2. with incomes not exceeding 185% of the poverty line.
Provides funds to the Mayor of DC, if the Mayor agrees to specified requirements, for:
  1. the DC public schools to improve public education, and
  2. the DC public charter schools to improve and expand quality public charter schools.

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.

Reference: Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR); Bill HRes186 ; vote number 11-HV200 on Mar 30, 2011

Voted NO on $40B for green public schools.

Congressional Summary:Make grants to states for the modernization, renovation, or repair of public schools, including early learning facilities and charter schools, to make them safe, healthy, high-performing, and technologically up-to-date.

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.

Reference: 21st Century Green Schools Act; Bill H.R.2187 ; vote number 2009-H259 on May 14, 2009

Voted NO on additional $10.2B for federal education & HHS projects.

Veto override on the bill, the American Competitiveness Scholarship Act, the omnibus appropriations bill for the Departments of Departments of Education, Health & Human Services, and Labor. Original bill passed & was then vetoed by the President.

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.

Reference: American Competitiveness Scholarship Act; Bill Veto override on H.R. 3043 ; vote number 2007-1122 on Nov 15, 2007

Voted NO on allowing Courts to decide on "God" in Pledge of Allegiance.

Amendment to preserve the authority of the US Supreme Court to decide any question pertaining to the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill underlying this amendment would disallow any federal courts from hearing cases concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. This amendment would make an exception for the Supreme Court.

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.

Reference: Watt amendment to Pledge Protection Act; Bill H R 2389 ; vote number 2006-384 on Jul 19, 2006

Voted NO on $84 million in grants for Black and Hispanic colleges.

This vote is on a substitute bill (which means an amendment which replaces the entire text of the original bill). Voting YES means support for the key differences from the original bill: lowering student loan interest rates; $59 million for a new Predominantly Black Serving Institution program; $25 million for a new graduate Hispanic Serving Institution program; provide for year- round Pell grants; and repeal the Single Lender rule. The substitute's proponents say:
  • The original bill has some critical shortcomings. First and foremost, this substitute will cut the new Pell Grant fixed interest rate in half from 6.8% to 3.4%, to reduce college costs to those students most in need.
  • It would also establish a new predominantly black-serving institutions programs to boost college participation rates for low-income black students, and a new graduate Hispanic-serving institution program.
  • As we saw from 1995 to 2000, the questions employers were asking was not your race, not your ethnicity, not your religion, they wanted to know if you had the skills and talents to do the job. Most often today, those skills and that talent requires a higher education. A college education is going to have to become as common as a high school education.
    Reference: Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act; Bill HR 609 Amendment 772 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 30, 2006

    Rated 17% by the NEA, indicating anti-public education votes.

    Blackburn scores 17% by the NEA on public education issues

    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.
    Source: NEA website 03n-NEA on Dec 31, 2003

    Constitutionally guarantee parent's right to educate kids.

    Blackburn co-sponsored Parental Rights Amendment

      Resolved that the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid when ratified by 3/4 of the several States within seven years:
    1. The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.
    2. Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.
    3. No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.
    Source: H.J.RES.3 11-HJR03 on Jan 5, 2011

    Denounce the Common Core State Standards.

    Blackburn co-sponsored Resolution against Common Core

    Congressional summary:: Strongly denouncing the President's coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants:

      Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that--
    1. States and local educational agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curricula;
    2. the Federal Government should not incentivize the adoption of common education standards; and
    3. no application process for any Federal grant funds should provide any preference for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

      Opponent's argument against (CoreStandards.org): The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards [not adopted in TX, NE, AK, MN, and VA]. The nation's governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards.

      Source: HRes.476 & SRes.345 14-HR0476 on Feb 11, 2014

      A-PLUS lets states escape No Child Left Behind.

      Blackburn voted YEA A-PLUS Amendment To Student Success Act

      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)

      Source: Congressional vote 15-H0005 on Jul 8, 2015

      Vouchers break link of low-income and low-quality schools.

      Blackburn voted YEA SOAR Act

      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.

      Source: Congressional vote 15-H0010 on Oct 21, 2015

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