Murray Questions 'Bipartisan' Commitment to Education as GOP Torpedoes Amendment to Make Classrooms Less Crowded

May 15 2001

Under President Bush's watch, Senate Republicans kill teacher-hiring initiative

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – On a party-line vote today, Senate Republicans killed a successful initiative that has already put nearly 40,000 teachers into America's classrooms, benefiting about 2 million children. The Class Size amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, (D-Wash.) would have dedicated $2.4 billion next year to continue the successful class size reduction initiative and hire 100,000 new teachers.

"Today Senate Republicans told parents, students and teachers that smaller classes are not a national priority," Murray said. "Instead they cast a politically-motivated vote to make local school districts choose between investing in smaller classes or investing in teacher quality."

The Murray amendment was defeated on a party-line vote of 48 to 50.

For the past three years, federal education dollars have been targeted to class size reduction. The Republican plan, however, would combine funding for smaller classes and teacher quality into one lump sum. As a result, local school districts will now be forced to choose between providing smaller classes or funding teacher quality. Senator Murray's amendment would continue to dedicate funding specifically for class size.

"We do not make our military chose between weapons or training. We do not make our infirm choose between food and medicine. We should not make our children choose between smaller classes and high-quality teachers.

"Today's vote was a test of whether this Congress is serious about giving schools the tools they need to improve. On today's partisan vote, Congress failed that test.

"We know that many schools need to do a better job. Schools need to be held accountable and teachers need to be held accountable. But Congress must be accountable to America's children. It is easy to call for more testing. But no test is going to help a student learn to read or add -- a smaller class and a qualified teacher will."