Linder talks education, taxes with Hull middle schoolers

DULUTH - Although U.S. Rep. John Linder voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, he said he now hopes the government will discontinue its support of the federal student accountability law.

Standardized test scores increased every decade until 1965, the year after the federal government got involved with education at the local level, he told a group of eighth-grade students Thursday at Hull Middle School.

"I'd like to see us remove the Washington influence from the decisions made at the local school levels," he said. "I'm sorry to say I voted for (NCLB)."

Linder, R-Duluth, answered students' questions about education, the environment, the FairTax bill and the global war on terrorism.

"I was impressed by the questions," said Linder, who visited three schools this week. "I was taken back when they wanted to know what kind of businesses I had."

Parents know when the representative is visiting schools, and questions from children often reflect topics discussed at home, Linder said. But the questions about the businesses he owned and his former career as a dentist were developed from a genuine interest, he said.

One student asked Linder for advice in how to enter the political arena.

"Find someone to work for ... and help someone get elected," Linder said.

There is a lot to learn from helping someone run a campaign, Linder said. He encouraged students to get in touch with someone running for the school board or a city council.

Another student asked him if he had any aspirations to run for president.

"I'll be 65 years old next Sunday," he said. "I've never had the burning desire to be president."

Linder said he's known every president since Richard Nixon was in office, but he's gotten to know President Bush the best. He's ridden with Bush several times on Air Force One and visited the White House's residential quarters.

In a casual setting, Bush is one of the wittiest and smartest men Linder said he's ever met.

"He's a very nice man," Linder said, "but he fails on TV."

Linder wouldn't speculate as to who may win the next presidential election, but he noted that Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney appear to have the most organized campaigns.

The veteran Congressman also shared his political philosophy with the students.

"I try to be honest and sincere, and I tell people what I think," Linder said. "If you don't like it, you can vote against me. I'm elected because more people agree with my views than not."