Sen. Franken: early childhood ed now a top priority

He predicts Obama will be needing his veto pen

Senator Al Franken
Senator Al Franken

Despite some critics’ assessment that he wasn’t visible enough, Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken says he stayed busy during his first term in Washington working on such issues as workforce development, affordable prescription drugs, and helping rural Minnesotans get more benefits from energy technologies.

Now sent back to Washington after his reelection last November, Franken says early childhood education is among the top priorities he hopes to address during his second six-year term. He sat down with the MSR after attending the annual MLK Holiday Breakfast at the Minneapolis Convention Center and briefly talked about his legislative priorities.

“I can’t think of anything more important than early childhood education” along with prenatal care and other important child-raising support measures, explained the senator. He also wants to see changes in the No Child Left Behind law.

“One of the things I’m going to fight for is that we keep the accountability, including the assessments, to make sure that the resources minority and poor students need to succeed [are provided],” said Franken. “We have to keep those assessments to keep states and localities being accountable on how everybody is doing.”

Franken has been among many outspoken critics of “Big Cable,” especially the proposed Comcast/Time Warner merger. He wants to see cable costs affordable for consumers and expand online access. “We should be able to have kids online, both in school and at home. We have to bridge this digital divide” that now exists for many Blacks and other people of color, he stated.

“Net Neutrality is a term that escapes people, especially people who are not online,” said Franken on broadband issues for which he’s advocated. More competition in the marketplace would help keep costs down, and Franken wants to “encourage municipal broadband” as a result. Senate Democrats are against the GOP House and Senate Net Neutrality bill that if passed would prohibit the FCC from reclassifying broadband as a utility service, impose new rules and block the agency from invalidating state restrictions on municipal broadband.

Furthermore, Franken said “basic budget priorities” are going to be challenged by the new Republican majority in the Senate. “We are going to have a fight over this,” he predicted. But when asked if the GOP is firmly committed to overturning many of President Barack Obama’s proposals, including his landmark Affordable Care Act legislation, Franken said, “The president is going to have to use his veto pen.”

The senator added that if President Obama exercises his veto power, it can be upheld. “We are going to have to help him sustain it,” concluded Franken of his fellow Democrats.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.