Senatorial candidates spar over education
By By Tim Reeves, Special to the Enquirer
MONTGOMERY – The same day Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced the allocation of more than $700 million to Alabama schools, his opponent questioned his voting record when it came to education.
"Finding himself in an election year with a bad record on education, Senator Jeff Sessions is trying desperately to reinvent himself," said Democratic candidate Susan Parker in a press release. "He even called himself an 'education Senator' while touting money for Alabama's schoolchildren."
The money Sessions announced was $737.6 million released from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2002 school year.
The funding represents more than $90 million in new federal spending for public education in the state. Much of the increase was authorized by the "No Child Left Behind" education reform bill signed into law by President Bush last January.
Sessions unveiled the funding at a Wednesday news conference in Montgomery with State Superintendent Ed Richardson.
"Under Dr. Richardson's leadership, Alabama has made some great strides in education in recent years," Sessions said. "While education is primarily funded at the state and local level, I was proud to have helped draft the federal legislation that will mean more money, less paperwork and more flexibility in Alabama schools."
The funding increase will go toward a number of different programs including:
Sessions was able to work with the Alabama Department of Education and the Bush administration to craft the legislation that ensure that Alabama's program would qualify for the funding. These funds will assist the Alabama Department of Education to expand the Alabama Reading Initiative.
Parker countered Wednesday's announcement by questioning Sessions' education voting history.
"Jeff Sessions voted against putting more teachers in classrooms to help reduce class size," Parker said. "He also voted against funding that would help schools build new facilities, especially crumbling rural schools without an adequate tax base to provide for their children."