January 10th, 2001

Education Secretary-Designate Rod Paige Earns High Marks From Both Sides of the Aisle in his Senate Confirmation Hearing Today

By David Welna
National Public Radio (NPR)

NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.  I’m Noah Adams.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I’m Robert Siegel.

President-elect George W. Bush’s choice for Education secretary faced his first big test today.  At his Senate confirmation hearing, Roderick Paige earned high marks from both Democrats and Republicans.  Though the former Houston superintendent faced some tough questioning on vouchers, his nomination is expected to win easy confirmation by the full Senate later this month.  NPR’s David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

Every senator on the committee that handles Education showed up for today’s confirmation hearing, even though Congress is not in session.  It was an unmistakable sign of how important an issue education has become in this country.  And Senator Edward Kennedy clearly relished his very temporary role as the Democratic chair of that committee, a chair that will revert to Republican control once Dick Cheney becomes the tie-breaker in the evenly divided Senate.  Kennedy, like other Democrats on the committee, had nothing but the highest praise for the first black man ever nominated to head the Department of Education.

Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): He comes to this position highly recommended, highly regarded by a whole range of different educators, but most importantly by students and by parents as well.  And we commend the president and we commend Dr. Paige for being willing to undertake this responsibility.

WELNA: Kennedy presumably meant to say the president-elect in his commendations.  And the 67-year-old Paige continued the lovefest with some kudos of his own for the outgoing secretary of Education, Richard Riley.

Dr. RODERICK PAIGE (Secretary of Education-designate): Secretary Riley is a man of integrity and I’m grateful and I will continue to be grateful for his graciousness and for his advice if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed.

WELNA: But as a Republican who’s been close to the Bush family since the early ‘80s, Paige echoed complaints about public education that the president-elect made while on the campaign trail last fall.

Dr. PAIGE: We believe that we are experiencing an education recession, a decline and the stagnation in student achievement.  Too many schools are not teaching our children basic skills, such as reading and writing.

WELNA: Paige said that like President-elect Bush, he supported allowing parents to use federal funds the way they best saw fit for educating their children.  That drew a sharp question from Senator Kennedy.

Sen. KENNEDY: Will you make private school vouchers a priority?

Dr. PAIGE: Not a priority, Senator.  Allow me to comment on this.  Of course, there’s been much discussion about this…

Sen. KENNEDY: I’ll take your first answer.

Dr. PAIGE: I know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

WELNA: Paige made it clear to the committee that he’s by no means dogmatic about pushing for vouchers.

Dr. PAIGE: I think that there’s room for us to talk about this, and I’m willing to hear, and eager to hear your views because I know inside of the interest of the common good, that we can find a way to make public schools work.  And it is not where that--I’m coming to this body with any particular entrenchment as far as ideology is concerned.  What I’d like to find out is what works.  Show me the results and I’d have some interest in trying it.

WELNA: That was apparently enough to reassure Democrats.  After the hearing, Kennedy said he did not expect vouchers to be a big issue in upcoming education legislation.

Sen. KENNEDY: But I don’t think a major voucher program’s gonna be the first priority of this administration.

WELNA: But not everyone who attended the hearing was satisfied with Paige’s remarks.  Gary Ruskin heads a school watchdog group called Commercial Alert that’s opposed to allowing commercial interests into the public school system, an issue for which Ruskin’s group has criticized Paige.

Mr. GARY RUSKIN (Commercial Alert): Well, he did say that he’s concerned about the commercialization of schools and that’s good, but it’s very different from what his record is during his tenure in Houston.  Houston signed a Coke exclusive marketing deal; as well, they had Channel One in the schools, which is a way of compelling kids to watch ads in school. And so this is very different from what his record is.

WELNA: But for the most part, nearly everyone at today’s hearing seemed close to euphoric about the man who’s virtually certain to be the next Education secretary.  Senator Kennedy assured Rod Paige as the hearing ended that he could count on the committee’s full support.  David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

January 10th, 2001

Education Secretary-Designate Rod Paige Earns High Marks From Both Sides of the Aisle in his Senate Confirmation Hearing Today

By David Welna
National Public Radio (NPR)

NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.  I’m Noah Adams.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I’m Robert Siegel.

President-elect George W. Bush’s choice for Education secretary faced his first big test today.  At his Senate confirmation hearing, Roderick Paige earned high marks from both Democrats and Republicans.  Though the former Houston superintendent faced some tough questioning on vouchers, his nomination is expected to win easy confirmation by the full Senate later this month.  NPR’s David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

Every senator on the committee that handles Education showed up for today’s confirmation hearing, even though Congress is not in session.  It was an unmistakable sign of how important an issue education has become in this country.  And Senator Edward Kennedy clearly relished his very temporary role as the Democratic chair of that committee, a chair that will revert to Republican control once Dick Cheney becomes the tie-breaker in the evenly divided Senate.  Kennedy, like other Democrats on the committee, had nothing but the highest praise for the first black man ever nominated to head the Department of Education.

Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): He comes to this position highly recommended, highly regarded by a whole range of different educators, but most importantly by students and by parents as well.  And we commend the president and we commend Dr. Paige for being willing to undertake this responsibility.

WELNA: Kennedy presumably meant to say the president-elect in his commendations.  And the 67-year-old Paige continued the lovefest with some kudos of his own for the outgoing secretary of Education, Richard Riley.

Dr. RODERICK PAIGE (Secretary of Education-designate): Secretary Riley is a man of integrity and I’m grateful and I will continue to be grateful for his graciousness and for his advice if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed.

WELNA: But as a Republican who’s been close to the Bush family since the early ‘80s, Paige echoed complaints about public education that the president-elect made while on the campaign trail last fall.

Dr. PAIGE: We believe that we are experiencing an education recession, a decline and the stagnation in student achievement.  Too many schools are not teaching our children basic skills, such as reading and writing.

WELNA: Paige said that like President-elect Bush, he supported allowing parents to use federal funds the way they best saw fit for educating their children.  That drew a sharp question from Senator Kennedy.

Sen. KENNEDY: Will you make private school vouchers a priority?

Dr. PAIGE: Not a priority, Senator.  Allow me to comment on this.  Of course, there’s been much discussion about this…

Sen. KENNEDY: I’ll take your first answer.

Dr. PAIGE: I know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

WELNA: Paige made it clear to the committee that he’s by no means dogmatic about pushing for vouchers.

Dr. PAIGE: I think that there’s room for us to talk about this, and I’m willing to hear, and eager to hear your views because I know inside of the interest of the common good, that we can find a way to make public schools work.  And it is not where that--I’m coming to this body with any particular entrenchment as far as ideology is concerned.  What I’d like to find out is what works.  Show me the results and I’d have some interest in trying it.

WELNA: That was apparently enough to reassure Democrats.  After the hearing, Kennedy said he did not expect vouchers to be a big issue in upcoming education legislation.

Sen. KENNEDY: But I don’t think a major voucher program’s gonna be the first priority of this administration.

WELNA: But not everyone who attended the hearing was satisfied with Paige’s remarks.  Gary Ruskin heads a school watchdog group called Commercial Alert that’s opposed to allowing commercial interests into the public school system, an issue for which Ruskin’s group has criticized Paige.

Mr. GARY RUSKIN (Commercial Alert): Well, he did say that he’s concerned about the commercialization of schools and that’s good, but it’s very different from what his record is during his tenure in Houston.  Houston signed a Coke exclusive marketing deal; as well, they had Channel One in the schools, which is a way of compelling kids to watch ads in school. And so this is very different from what his record is.

WELNA: But for the most part, nearly everyone at today’s hearing seemed close to euphoric about the man who’s virtually certain to be the next Education secretary.  Senator Kennedy assured Rod Paige as the hearing ended that he could count on the committee’s full support.  David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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