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Santorum: Oops, I Voted the Wrong Way on NCLB

During this weekend's debate, Sen. Rick Santorum expressed major remorse over his vote in favor of the No Child Left Behind Act.

But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has no regrets when it comes to his contention that kids in poverty would do better in school if you only they could earn some cash through "light janitorial work."

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Santorum's comments on NCLB came in response to a dig from Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who was also in Congress at the time and was just of a small handful of lawmakers to oppose the legislation.

Santorum said he's really sorry and that he was just trying to support President George W. Bush's "signature initiative." And he'll make up for his vote by working to repeal not just the law, but "all of the federal government's role in primary and secondary education." (Really? No more Title I grants for disadvantaged kids and special education money?)

Gingrich, on the other hand, did not back away from his idea that poor schools would improve if kids as young as eleven were given a chance to earn some money working in the cafeteria or sweeping up the gym. Juan Williams, one of the debate's moderators, noted that those comments have been viewed as racist and classist.

But Gingrich stuck to his guns.

"I've had over 50 people write me about the jobs they got at 11, 12, 13 years of age. ... What I tried to say—and I think it's fascinating, because Joe Klein reminded me that this started with an article he wrote 20 years ago. New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They'd learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They'd be getting money, which is a good thing if you're poor. Only the elites despise earning money."

Factcheckers are not in Gingrich's camp on this one.

Check out the full transcript of the debate, which was sponsored by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, here.

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