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Responses to a Questionnaire Presented by the National Education Association

February 06, 1976

Q. If elected President, what steps would you take and/or what measures would you initiate to improve the quality of American public education?

Governor Carter. A major overhaul of the revenue sharing concept is needed. Funds for local governments should be greatly increased, and the prohibition against using these funds for education should be eliminated.

The regressive and haphazard method of financing education across the nation produces severe disparities among states and within a single state. As governor, I successfully sponsored major reform for education financing in Georgia, based on the relative wealth of the area in which a child lives, to help eliminate such disparities.

The federal share of public education costs was 10 percent in 1974. If existing inequalities are to be eliminated and American teachers provided with a decent standard of living, the portion must be increased.

The return from federal expenditures can be greatly enhanced by simplification of laws and regulations to substitute education for paper-shuffling grantsmanship.

As President, I will initiate as a major and early priority a comprehensive attack upon the basic problems of education in America with particular emphasis on the obvious inadequate system of financing. This program will include specific and substantive proposals for implementation by the President, the Congress, and the states. I will not be hesitant to propose and support basic changes.

In addition to the items already mentioned, such a program would assure the following:

  • The proper relationship between private and public education.
  • Expanded vocational and career opportunities. (By 1980, 80 percent of all jobs are expected to require education beyond high school but less than a 4-year degree.)
  • The educational rights of the handicapped.
  • The proper consideration of private philanthropy in education as decisions on basic tax reform proposals are made.

A piecemeal approach will not solve the problem. A comprehensive program and the political courage to see it implemented are required.

Q. In developing your administration's education policies with whom would you consult? What role do you see NEA teacher-leaders playing in your administration?

Governor Carter. I will consult with NEA on matters of policy, and before making educational appointments, I will seek out experts in every field of education, including NEA teacher-leaders.

Q. What specific qualifications would you look for in your appointments of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; the Commissioner of Education; the HEW Assistant Secretary for Education; and Director of the National Institute of Education? What is your position on establishing a separate Cabinet level Department of Education?

Governor Carter. I will make all appointments on a strict basis of merit. I am in favor of creating a separate Cabinet level Department of Education. Generally, I am opposed to the proliferation of federal agencies, now numbering some 1,900, which I believe should be reduced to 200. But the Department of Education would consolidate the grant programs, job training, early childhood education, literacy training, and many other functions currently scattered throughout the government. The result would be a stronger voice for education at the federal level.

Q. What budgetary priority do you place on public education in relation to the many other concerns of the federal government?

Governor Carter. I believe public education is a top budgetary priority.

Q. What measures would your administration take to insure that state and local governments can provide educational equity and a comprehensive education for all Americans? Would your administration take steps to see that the federal government's share of public education expenses increases, say up to one-third of all funds needed? What do you see as an appropriate level of funding at the end of your four-year term as President?

Governor Carter. I have discussed these questions in number one; I also stated that the level of federal funding should be raised.

Q. What is your position on the use of public funds to support church- related or other nonpublic schools? Would you support legislation to provide tax credits for tuition to nonpublic schools? What is the responsibility of the federal government in providing financial support for post-secondary education institutions? What form(s) should such assistance take?

Governor Carter. I will uphold the rulings of the Supreme Court on the use of public funds to support church-related schools.

I believe the federal government has a creative role to play in higher education. For example, parents whose children go to private colleges understandably complain of unfair treatment. They must support public colleges and universities through taxation as well as pay high tuition fees. During my years as Governor of Georgia, voters authorized grants of $400 per year for each student attending private college, still a smaller cost to taxpayers than if these students enrolled in public institutions. Such legislation should be encouraged elsewhere. Also basic tax reform proposals should give proper consideration to the role of private philanthropy in education.

Q. Do you support a federal statute to grant teachers and other public employees collective bargaining rights? Do you support the right of public employees to strike? If you don't favor the right to strike or place a limitation on that right, what alternative do you propose?

Governor Carter. I support the right of public employees to organize and bargain collectively. I would prefer binding arbitration for public safety employees. Under normal circumstances, I would not consider teachers in this category and would not interfere with their right to strike.

Q. Would you support a federal-state program to guarantee the right of teachers during their working years to substantially carry their retirement benefits with them from state to state?

Governor Carter. Yes; I would recommend and sign into law a measure which would allow teachers to transfer earned retirement benefits from one retirement system to another.

Q. Do you believe that teachers and university researchers should have a limited exemption under the copyright laws?

Governor Carter. I understand the intricacies of this question. I am studying this situation and will formulate legislation that is fair to both teachers and publishers.

Q. What is your position regarding the enactment of a universal, comprehensive national health security program that is supported through the tax system and is not based on the ability to pay?

Governor Carter. I support the concept of national health insurance. I favor a system of comprehensive national health insurance which guarantees every person as a right as much care as he or she needs, with minimum or no deductibles or coinsurance, and with cost and quality controls.

Q. What initiatives would your administration take to maintain the guarantees of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and amendments to them, despite attempts to water down these statutes? Would you insist upon strict enforcement of all civil rights laws and court mandates?

Governor Carter. The best thing that ever happened to the South in my lifetime was the Civil Rights Act and other related court decisions.

Guarantees of equal participation in the political process similar to those provided in the Voting Rights Act should be extended to all parts of the nation where minority representation and participation are clearly inadequate. We as a nation must act affirmatively and aggressively to compensate for decades of racial discrimination. This includes a commitment to increase minority representation in public jobs and policy making positions, a principle upon which I acted as governor. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the ERA and affirmative action efforts to end discrimination against women.

I support post card registration for voting. To make registration more available to young people, I, while governor, filed and succeeded in having passed a bill to designate all high school principals as deputy voting registrars. This program significantly increased registration among the young, particularly in minority groups.

Q. What initiatives would you and your administration take to eliminate sex discrimination, specifically to eradicate inequality in the world of work, leadership in our institutions, and participation in politics and our educational system?

Governor Carter. As President, I would ensure that: (1) laws prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, advancement, education, training, credit, and housing be strictly enforced; (2) strong efforts be made to create federal legislation and guidelines to eliminate sex discrimination in health and disability insurance plans; (3) Social Security laws be revised so that women would no longer be penalized; (4) women have equal access to health care systems and voluntary family planning programs; (5) adequate child care be made available to all parents who need such care for their children.

EEOC has been justly criticized at times for not properly emphasizing the enforcement of sex discrimination laws. I would support legislation to increase the number of employees at EEOC specifically assigned to enforce our laws to eliminate sex discrimination.

Q. What are your major aims and objectives as President?

Governor Carter. I have many goals and objectives for our government. The two questions I hear again and again across this country are, "Can our government be competent? Can our government be decent and honest and open?" I have to tell you that a majority of our people would say no. But we don't have to be pessimists. I want to restore faith in the efficiency, effectiveness, competence and honesty of our federal government.

I have run the Georgia government in a tough, businesslike way. As a scientist, as a businessman, as a planner, as a farmer, I've managed it tightly and brought about some dramatic changes in its costs, in its long-range planning and budgeting techniques, and in its organizational structure. We cut administrative costs by more than 50 percent in Georgia. We abolished 278 of 300 agencies and departments. So I know it is possible to run an efficient government.

We ought not lower our standards in government. Our government in Washington ought to be an inspiration to us all and not a source of shame.

These are the two major goals I have as a candidate for President. I will work to make our government efficient and competent; and I will make our government one that all our people can be proud of.

Q. If you are chosen your party's nominee, why should teachers support you for President?

Governor Carter. My personal commitment to education is reflected in my career as a public official. My first position was the chairmanship of a local school board. I ran for the state senate because of my concern for public education in Georgia and successfully sponsored there our first overhaul of education financing. Ten years later, during my term as governor, a second even broader reform was successfully completed after 2 years of hard work. As President, my priorities will not change; I will remain committed to quality education for all our citizens.

Jimmy Carter, Responses to a Questionnaire Presented by the National Education Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353884

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