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Bush Campaigns for Education Reform - 2001-08-01

President Bush is taking his campaign for education reform to the African-American community. Reform legislation has passed the House and Senate and the President is urging negotiators to work out differences between the two versions of the bill (before the start of the new school year).

With Congress about to head off on a month-long recess, the President is making a last minute push for his domestic priorities. At the top of the list is education. "We owe all our children the pride and promise of learning. We must return the spirit of ambition and achievement to all our public schools," he said.

Mr. Bush campaigned for education reform in a speech to the National Urban League. It is one of the largest African-American organizations in the country, and focuses on bettering economic conditions in the nation's cities.

The President told organization members at a Washington convention that education is the key to a brighter future. "In America, literacy is liberation and we must set all our children free!" he said.

The Bush administration had hoped to get education reform legislation through Congress months ago. But the power shift in the Senate resulted in delays and compromises. One of the President's key proposals, which involved using public funds to pay for private school tuition, was dropped.

But the core of his reform initiative remains. It involves regular testing for students and more accountability for teachers and school administrators.

"When we raise academic standards, children raise their academic sights. When children are regularly tested, teachers know where and how to improve. When scores are known to parents, parents are empowered to push for change," the President said.

Mr. Bush told the Urban League that more money alone will not fix the problems in the nation's schools, particularly in troubled urban neighborhoods where scholastic achievement is low. He said schools that do not meet national standards must pay a price.

"Consequences for school officials must be determined by proven results for children. Those in authority must show responsibility. The purpose of education, after all, is not jobs for adults; it is learning for students," Mr. Bush said.

The President's remarks on education received a warm welcome from members of the National Urban League. But earlier in the week, there was strong criticism at the convention of Mr. Bush's economic policies.

Such tough talk probably came as no surprise to the Bush White House. More than 90-percent of African-American voters opted for Democrat Al Gore in last year's presidential election.