June 27, 2001
In his first trip to the West Coast since he tipped the U.S. Senate majority to Democratic control, Vermont Sen. James Jeffords visited educators and students in Long Beach to learn more about successful school reforms here.
The controversial Republican-turned-independent recently spoke at an education conference at Cal State Long Beach, where he said that Congress’ opposition to full funding of special education and the White House’s rejection of his request for more federal education funding were the main reasons he left the GOP.
Jeffords, who chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, singled out the Long Beach Unified School District’s Seamless Education with Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach as a "national model for practical, bold and efficient school reforms." Seamless Education coordinates college and university courses with teacher training and K-12 public school instruction.
The seven-year-old Seamless Education national model has been credited with bringing coherence and support to teacher training efforts here, and has brought teachers closer to the university. As a result, it has been possible to tailor courses, and to improve the quantity and quality of new teachers.
Jeffords said reforms modeled after Long Beach’s are now helping students in the Washington, D.C. area by uniting colleges and universities, business and labor, and teachers and parents. He was inspired by an earlier Long Beach visit to clone Seamless Education in the troubled D.C. schools.
Jeffords’ June 22 visit included a stop at the Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional School for Homeless Children, where he read and sang with homeless students. Bethune, which has helped about 3,000 students get back into public schools since it opened in 1991, was among the first schools in the nation to address the needs of homeless children. The school is located on 26 acres of Naval reuse property. At the same site, comprehensive services to house and educate homeless veterans are provided. Sen. Jeffords visited with veterans and toured the facility.
Long Beach Schools Superintendent Carl Cohn called the senator "a colossus of independence," saying his daylong visit sent the message that education for all, not just a privileged few, is the key to lifting people out of poverty and despair.
"Education is an issue that must transcend partisan politics if we hope to maintain our status as the greatest nation in the world," Cohn said at an afternoon reception for the senator. "I believe it is the only issue that can bring so many people together for the common good."