National Democrats have attacked Djou’s record on education, taxes and independence in recent months.
The first mention in a commercial of his stance on education came in a mid-September spot that said: “August 10 — Djou voted against nearly 40 million dollars to help keep Hawaii’s schools open.”
The DCCC reprised that claim two weeks later, on Oct. 1, in a new spot published to YouTube.
Both commercials point to roll call No. 518, when Djou, as well as 157 other Republicans and three Democrats, voted nay on House Resolution 1586. The bill [pdf], which passed 247-161 and was signed by President Barack Obama, appropriated $10 billion for education jobs. Hawaii will receive $39 million of that, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
In a fiction-versus-fact handout distributed at the Tuesday press conference and included in a press release, the Hawaii GOP describes the bill as “a $26 billion bailout for state and local governments financed by a cut in the food stamp program, an increase in taxes and an increased budget deficit.”
Djou’s fiscal conservatism creates a challenge for him, because when he votes on principle against government spending he also potentially deprives his own district of federal dollars. A congressman is in part judged on his ability to bring home the bacon for his constituents.
In the press release, Hawaii GOP Chair Jonah Kaauwai and Executive Director Dylan Nonaka say Democrats “insist that Congressman Djou voted against Hawaii schools but the truth is Hawaii schools were not in danger of closing and no teachers were at risk of losing their jobs.”
Both the DCCC’s claim that the $40 million would help keep schools open and the Hawaii Republicans’ claim that no schools and no teachers were in danger have little direct factual support. Each can be classified as hyperbole.
The Hawaii Department of Education has faced dramatic budget cuts in recent years. In response, it’s cut programs across the board, consolidated two schools and considered shuttering others, and shortened the school year by infamously furloughing teachers. It’s unclear what the direct impacts would have been had the bill been rejected as Djou advocated.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — aka “the stimulus” — provided some temporary relief via the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and allowed the department to plug budget holes. But that funding source dries up in June 2011, and the Hawaii DOE says the $40 million from the new bailout of the states is critical in keeping the school system afloat.
“This money is extremely important in this time where while we know the economy is slowly recovering, we still know that we have a ways to go,” said Sandy Goya, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Education. “This will help us to ensure that schools are able to continue to deliver the services and instruction to our students.”
In disputing the claim that Djou voted against Hawaii schools, Republicans say he “introduced legislation to help public schools.” A “Fact Check” on Djou’s campaign website says he introduced the Teacher Incentive Fund Act, “which rewards teachers and principals who raise academic achievement and close the achievement gap, especially in the highest-need schools. This is real reform.”
House Resolution 3683 [pdf], the bill in question, was introduced Sept. 30, 2009, nearly eight months before Djou was elected and sworn into office in late May 2010. Actually, it was introduced by Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia. The measure attracted six cosponsors (five Republicans, one Democrat) over the next six weeks before it was referred to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education on Nov. 16, 2009.
Djou attached his name as the seventh cosponsor on June 16, exactly seven months after the final congressional action on the bill. It has yet to emerge from subcommittee.
The Republicans also challenged claims about Djou’s alleged support for outsourcing American jobs and that he wasn’t an independent congressman. Civil Beat will explore his independence in a piece dedicated that topic.
Andy Stone, Western Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the group “absolutely” stands behind the ads.
“This is yet another attempt by Charles Djou’s campaign manager and Charles Djou to deflect from the record that he has compiled during his time in Congress,” Stone said of the Hawaii Republicans’ press release and Nonaka’s former role in Djou’s campaign. “Those are the facts, that’s Charles Djou’s record and he refuses to address it. And the ads are intended to point that out.”