U.S. Senate candidate Tony Knowles urged a rollback in the Bush administration's education policies as he campaigned in Juneau on Tuesday.
Knowles, former two-term Democratic governor and Anchorage mayor, spoke at a McPhetres Hall spaghetti dinner. He recalled his days as governor, working with former President Clinton at a time when each state was to develop its own education plan.
Knowles is running for the seat held by Republican Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed by her father, Frank Murkowski, when he left the Senate to succeed Knowles as governor. Sen. Murkowski visited Juneau last week to speak to the Legislature and accept an endorsement from the United Fishermen of Alaska.
Knowles said Tuesday the No Child Left Behind legislation passed under President Bush has turned the dream of universal education "into a nightmare" and said he would push for a return to local control.
"It's not Republicans and Democrats," he said of the issue. "It's Alaska."
Kimberly Homme, grants administrator for the Juneau School District, introduced Knowles to an audience of more than 150 people, saying he scored "an A-plus as an advocate for education."
Knowles said he would "reform or repeal" legislation driven by Bush that has created a system that doesn't fit every state. "They've programmed our schools for failure."
While imposing federal testing and standards on schools, he said, the program fails to fully fund what it requires and ignores the relationships between teachers, students and parents.
He noted the alienation and cynicism so many people have come to feel for politics.
Answering a question from a woman who lamented that the country was exporting high school graduates' jobs while sending them off to war, Knowles said he would work on both of those problems.
He said the U.S. cannot afford to bear the financial and physical costs of the Iraq war alone. "I will make and amend the alliances that have left us alienated throughout the world."
At the same time, "we don't need to be exporting our jobs," Knowles said.
He said he isn't against business, but he would like to close some tax loopholes so "you don't get a tax credit for putting your headquarters in the Cayman Islands."
Knowles said the foreign countries that are getting jobs that used to stay in the U.S. have lower safety and environmental standards.
He said he doesn't support the tax cut at the cornerstone of Bush's economic policy, calling it "a tax shift," with the real benefits going to the top 1 percent.
Meanwhile, the country is facing a $500 billion deficit, he said, harkening to Clinton's $900 billion budget surplus.
"It gives you almost the bends going in that direction," Knowles said.
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