TheUnionLeader.com - Thompson Campaigns on Vouchers, School Choice
By JOHN DISTASO
Republican Presidential candidate Tommy Thompson this week promoted school choice as the "salvation of education" during a visit to first-primary state New Hampshire.
The former Wisconsin governor and federal health and human services secretary said in an interview he would use federal block grants to encourage states to implement education voucher systems, charter schools and other forms of school choice. He would also use block grants for special education funds.
Democrats say the No Child Left Behind Law stifles creativity, forces rote, test-based learning. Thompson said, "If they're learning, what's wrong with that?"
Regarding school choice, Thompson said, "Break the shackles of the teachers unions and give parents an opportunity to pick the best schools for their children. That's where No Child Left Behind has to be strengthened."
He said federal involvement in education will not be rolled back, so the best approach is to strengthen the laws "to make sure there is some accountability and some responsibility to turn out the end-product as a student that knows how to read, write and compute and be able to pass a test."
Thompson also said he opposes civil unions, but said states should "make up their own minds" on allowing them. He said marriage should be between a man and a woman but opposes amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage.
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Illegal aliens should be deported if they break the law, Thompson said. To secure U.S. borders, he said, "We have to continue building the barrier. We have to have controlled access."
Immigrants in the U.S. legally should "go to the head of the class," while, "Those who are here illegally should be at the end of the line. They should pay a penalty, they should have to pay all of their back taxes, they should learn English and they have to spend time before they are able to apply for citizenship. And there should be no amnesty."
The former HHS secretary proposed splitting Medicaid to have the federal government take over "institutionalized care and adult care." Only the federal government is "capable and large enough to handle "the aging population.
"It would start the debate about requiring long-term health care in America," he said. "We need that in this country and nobody is talking about it."
Thompson said he supports President George W. Bush's prescription drug program, which he said, "has been able to stabilize drugs" and marks "the first time we have been able to bring in the free enterprise market into a federal program."
Thompson also said that he was the only candidate to have a detailed plan on how to rebuild Iraq. He would have the Iraqi government vote on whether the United States should remain or withdraw. He would urge the Iraqi government to set up the mechanism for the elections of 18 provincial governments. And he would urge the government to split oil revenues evenly among the federal and provincial and the Iraqi people.
Thompson said the U.S. should have had an exit strategy for the Iraq war. Asked what the country's exit strategy was for World War II, he said, "to win. We went in with the overwhelming power to do it.
Pressed on the question, Thompson then acknowledged the U.S. in fact entered World War II with less military might than Finland and built its military during the war.
Thompson said that in his 14 years as Wisconsin's governor, he vetoed "1,900 items," never raised his state's sales or income tax, launched welfare reform and worked with a Democratic legislature. As HHS secretary, he said, he set up a "war room" to "monitor infectious diseases worldwide and make sure we are somewhat protected against any kind of weaponizing of diseases."