Friday, August 11, 2000

Cheney defends '80s vote against Head Start

Ohio Democratic chief criticizes candidate's remarks

By Debra Jasper
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney on Thursday defended his vote against Head Start in the 1980s, saying just because “something has a fancy title doesn't mean it merited support.”

        Mr. Cheney said he now backs George W. Bush's proposal to give the early childhood program more academic content and move it from the Department of Human Services to the Education Department.

        “You don't want it to be just about child care,” he said.

        Mr. Cheney added that at the time he voted against Head Start, legislators were facing “big deficits.” In addition, he said, “there was a question about Head Start's effectiveness” and a lot of evidence showing it didn't help better prepare children for school over the long term.

        Mr. Cheney's comments came during an early morning visit with his wife, Lynne, to Tussing Elementary School in the suburb of Pickerington. It marked his second campaign swing through Ohio this week.

        The candidate also said parents need more choices about where to send their children to school, and that it's a crime to force students to stay in a bad school system. “Oftentimes our schools have failed us,” he said.

        Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland criticized Mr. Cheney's remarks, saying the Bush-Cheney team should work to strengthen public schools instead of help people leave them. He added that Mr. Cheney doesn't understand the concepts behind Head Start, one of the “shining success stories of the last 30 years.”

        Noting that Mr. Cheney also voted against school lunch programs when he was in Congress, Mr. Leland said the vice presidential candidate is only a “convert to children's issues” because he's now on a national ticket.

        Mr. Cheney, who was sec retary of defense under former President Bush, told teachers he understands the importance of education in part because of his experience as chief executive officer for Halliburton Co., an oil equipment company based in Texas.

        He said that in the oil and gas industry, the “lack of skilled, trained personnel is the biggest obstacle to meeting demand.”

        Later, he said Texas “is at the top” in terms of teaching math and reading at the elementary level. He said test scores for Hispanic and African-American students have dramatically improved.


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