Reforms on hold as Democrats gain Congress seats

10th November 2000 at 00:00

NEITHER Democrats nor Republicans will have enough votes to pass major education laws following the tight vote for the United States' Senate and Congress.

While Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W Bush were left biting their nails over a recount in Florida to determine who would win the race for the White House, the vote for the House and Senate reduced the Republican majorities to the barest minimum.

Republicans currently comprise 222 of the 435 members of the House, but the Democrats have won back at least eight seats in the next Congress. In the Senate, the Republican lead slipped from 54 of the 100 seats, to 53.

The margins are so slim that leaders of both parties said there would have to be more of a spirit of compromise - including on education funding, blocked until now by partisan division.

Only last week the Republican majority rejected a proposed 21 per cent increase in education spending to train new teachers, reduce class sizes, repair and renovate schools and provide after-school programmes. P> Republicans also forced the postponement of a vote on a Bill to provide $25 billion (pound;16.6 bn) in bonds for school repairs and new buildings. The Republicans' obstruction of education funding may have hurt them in the election. Exit polls found that voters for whom education was important sided with the Democrats.

The narrow margin means the two parties will have to work more closely together, and suggests that neither will have enough votes to secure radical education reforms - such as allowing government vouchers for private tuition, a favourite Republican objective.

In other education referendums, voters in Colorado and Oregon, both sites of deadly school shootings, approved criminal background checks for gun-buyers.

An Oregon proposal to prohibit teachers from "encouraging, promoting, or sanctioning" homosexuality appeared to have failed.

South Carolina approved a state lottery to finance education, but Arkansas rejected a lottery and gambling casinos to raise money for schools.

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