Interview with Former Minnesota Governor Al Quie: Part Two

Part One Part Three Article: "State Policy Grew Out of a Spiritual Journey" (Run time 5:33)

Al Quie served in the U.S. House of Representatives during the time that Congress passed Public Law 94-142, then called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. He served as the ranking minority member of the House Education Committee and co-sponsored this important legislation, which is now known as IDEA. In this clip, Quie recalls the need to bring people together and to work with his Democratic colleagues to pass this critical federal law.

And I was always in the minority, and so I worked with Republicans who were open to this idea, and shared with people who heretofore hadn't been open to it, and tried to reach into their lives to understand if any of them had any sensitivity for developmentally disabled people.

And so, when I'd find those, and then I would share my ideas to them.

And in Congress there was a person who was in the House Education and Labor Committee by the name of John Brademas from Indiana, and we began to battling each other on our ideas on television; and then one day he asked me to come to his office and Hans Kung from the Netherlands was there, who was a Catholic Priest who was at odds with his church to some extent with his theology, and just sitting down with him and then John Brademas, and I started talking about these ideas and our spiritual responsibilities as well, and that began my connection with the Democrat side of the aisle, as well. And so, that's the way it was there.

Some other things that went into that, like, which I love to tell. I talked to the chair, the new chair of the committee, Carl Perkins from Kentucky. So in order to understand him, he had 23 Tennessee Walker horses in Kentucky that nobody was doing anything with, they were just running wild, so I said to him that I will go down on the Easter recess instead of going back to my district, take two of my sons and I'll train your horses for you.

So I went down there—he sent someone to see if I knew what I was doing, and he said back that he sure does—and so I trained them so well that Carl gave me a yearling, a Tennessee Walker horse, just in return for it. And so—because I had learned how horses talk, you know, communicate with them as well with each other, and so what I then talked to Carl and said our trouble in committee is we are constantly at odds with each other because we got these straight line rows of seats and two tiers, and so in order to talk to somebody else you have to turn your head 90 degrees and in order to, if you are at less seniority you have to turn all the way around to talk to a person of seniority.

I said if we could all look at each other's eye like we did once over in that other building on the lower end, and so he then thought that through and built a diamond shaped table that 35 people could sit around and all of us could look into each other's eyes.

That was when we began developing legislation that both Republicans and Democrats could support. The issues as we were developing that first piece of legislation went by a number then instead of I-D-E-A, as it is now, it was 94-142.

It was pretty well picked up the concept—because not only Washington and Minnesota but some other states had picked it up, and Pennsylvania a case had been taken to the courts and they ruled that it was mandatory the school districts would have to provide special education for those who needed it. However, the courts don't provide any money and so that was the one part is that we needed to do it, and we needed to do what was possible for us to do and so we at that time, it did not reach as far as it did later with learning disabilities.

And so, one of the issues that I was concerned with, was that it was going to cost more money than the Congress had ever put up. Normally, I would have voted against legislation like that, cause I voted against Medicare. Because I said to the Mayo Clinic people eventually it will break this country and this costs which we are facing now.

But I was so passionate to help the developmentally disabled that I said, "I'm going to let that principle go aside in order to get this legislation through."

And so, now I feel that the Congress, since it has never put up more than 19% of the cost of that legislation, that they're still wrong, you're still wrong. You ought to fund it and find ways to fund that, and not put all that burden on the state. The state has enough burden on a number of other education responsibilities that we have here.

In Congress. when I looked at that group called the learning disabled, and that was a tough fight… and you know you have an influence when in the committee it went through, by one vote in the Education and Labor Committee, on the floor of the House it went through with one vote and the Senate, they did not include it, and in conference it went through with one vote and we got it enacted.

And the people who fought it were the ones already who had their money coming to them. because they figured that you shouldn't include them and take money away… that, you only realize if you reach out to other people and die to yourself, you gain yourself as well.