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Post Partisan
Posted at 11:29 AM ET, 03/09/2012

Rick Santorum kept his conservative principles on education hidden for a long, long time


Rick Santorum says he voted for No Child Left Behind even though it was “against the principles I believed in.”

“You know,” Santorum explained during the Feb. 22 Republican presidential debate, “when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.”

But then-Sen. Santorum didn’t just vote for No Child Left Behind. He voted for it, sang its praises, touted its principles and boasted of his support for it — for at least a half decade after it became law.

Even when he was running for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2006 — by which time his “team leader” was close to being a lame duck — Santorum was hailing NCLB as “the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades.”

That’s a long time to be living a lie.

A few examples, unearthed with the help of Post researcher Alice Crites:

-On April 19, 2001, Santorum visited his home state of Pennsylvania to brag that the bill, just approved in the Senate, would deliver $1.5 billion in additional federal funding for education to the state. “This additional funding, combined with rigorous accountability and increased flexibility, will ensure that no child is left behind in Pennsylvania,” Santorum said.

-In August, urging the House and Senate to reconcile their different versions of the bill, Santorum pleaded, “[L]et's not play partisan politics with the lives of little children who need the opportunity to have a chance to survive and thrive here in America with a quality education system.”

-In December, after final passage of the bill, Santorum said it “helps to meet our number-one domestic priority of granting the best education possible by allowing parents, teachers, and local communities to decide what's best for our children.”

The bill was “a major victory for parents,” Santorum added. “For the first time, a parent whose child is trapped in a failing school will have the option of seeking support services from among competing public institutions, private providers or faith-based educators… We are giving our communities the local control and flexibility they deserve, rewarding the schools that perform best, and providing an incentive for every school to excel.”

-More than two years later — in May, 2004, when NCLB was safely written into law and his team presumably needed no further help on the matter — Santorum took to the Senate floor to recite its virtues.

“The No Child Left Behind Act has proved to be a monumental step in transforming existing educational policy and focusing our educational priorities on achieving academic proficiency for all of our children,” he said.

A “monumental step?” A bill that violated his core principles?

-In September, 2004, Santorum delivered a proud progress report.

“No Child Left Behind is bringing hope and progress to Pennsylvania's students, parents, and teachers,” the senator wrote. “Children are being given the opportunity to achieve new levels of learning. …Children are already beginning to reap the benefits of the education reform.”

-And then, running for relection in 2006 — five years after passage of NCLB — Santorum chose to include this on his campaign Web site:

“Rick Santorum supported the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which has been the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades. This legislation sets important standards for our schools, our teachers and our children. By setting high accountability standards, NCLB encourages teachers and schools to excel…”

If I were a Republican voter, I’d want to know: If all of that was tactical dissembling, how can we tell when you’re telling the truth?

I e-mailed a campaign spokeswoman, asking (more or less) that question. So far, no response; I will update if I hear back.

By  |  11:29 AM ET, 03/09/2012

 
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