Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Champion Denies Voucher Support; Harpool Says She's "Lost" In Senate

Sen. Norma Champion says her ability to help get Missouri State's name change passed as well as a bill for children in crisis exemplifies her willingness to stand up to power and use her leverage in the State Senate.

Democratic State Senate challenger Doug Harpool's most biting charge against Champion is that she lacks independence and is "lost in the Senate."

"On the last day of the session, we only passed 3 bills," Champion told me in an interview. "When the voter I.D. bill was passed, the Democrats were very unhappy about that and they started doing a slowdown, a filibuster, if you will. They stepped back so I could get my bill passed on children in crisis. That doesn't happen unless you work cooperatively with all in the legislature," she added.

Harpool lists education as just one issue where Champion has failed to deliver, because she lacks the stature and clout the third most populated city should have. "The education funding for Springfield is far from an accomplishment, and nearly a disaster for the people of Springfield," he said. "We are hundreds of millions of dollars behind where we should be on education funding."

Harpool charges that she voted against fully funding education, and instead voted in favor of maintaining "several special interest projects in lieu of that."

"We're moving into more funding every year," Champion responded. "It takes awhile to catch up. You can't over night fund everything you need. We have made it a top priority. We are not withholding funds from education."

A current Champion ad notes she helped bring $3.9 million dollars in new money to Springfield Public Schools. But in our interview, Champion said she believed the number was actually $2.9 million.

Harpool also takes aim at Champion for supporting a plan that would divert public money to private schools. "That does more damage than anything she could've possibly done for education," she said.

In our interview, Champion said she does not support private vouchers for public school students. But according to a Missouri Catholic survey, she indicated she supports tax deductions for private school families.

When I asked Harpool why the Democratic solution to education always seems to be more money, he said that wasn't true.

"More money is not always the solution in education," he said. "But if Norma Champion is going to brag about the money she's brought to Springfield, she's failed."

He notes that with a $1.3 billion dollar budget increase, just $170 million more dollars were devoted to education.

"The real issue is not the funding. It's the voucher she supports," he said.

"I'm finding that what Senator Champion tells people of Springfield is very different than how she votes in Jefferson City and very different from what she tells the lobbyists in Jefferson City," he added.

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