AFT answers Dole's bash
September 1996

In his speech accepting the Republican nomination for president, Bob Dole raised the level of rhetoric in his opposition to teachers' unions.

Dole, who supports private school vouchers and opposes programs like Head Start, college loans and funding for Title I and Goals 2000, mentioned education only once in his acceptance speech before delegates to the Republican National Convention in San Diego on August 15. He attacked teachers unions and promised to fight for "opportunity scholarships," commonly known as private school vouchers. Dole also stated his support of school competition would force public school teachers to "join the rest of us in accountability while others compete with you for the commendable privilege of giving our children a real education."

"To the teachers unions I say, when I am president, I will disregard your political power, for the sake of the parents, the children, the schools and the nation," Dole vowed.

Leaders of the Florida Education Association/United and the American Federation of Teachers criticized Dole's remarks, which were broadcast on national television.

"Make no mistake about it, Bob Dole's attack was on teachers and our schools," FEA/United President Pat L. Tornillo, Jr., said. "We are proud to be the professional organization of teachers. Our number one priority is to advocate for Florida's and America's schoolchildren. And, we are at the very front of the movement to raise standards, improve student achievement, and put the best and the brightest teachers in the classroom."

AFT President Albert Shanker agreed.

"Bob Dole's attack on teachers unions was the low point of his acceptance speech," Shanker said. "Instead of trying to pit parents against teachers, he should be encouraging them to work together. Most parents don't want vouchers. They want the same things teachers want in schools: high academic standards and discipline in the classroom. Standards and discipline are what characterize good schools across America, public or private. Standards and discipline are what make good school systems overseas work. You don't need vouchers to get them. You need local communities working together to put in place these long overdue, common-sense changes."

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