George W. Bush says he is spending more money on U.S. education as part of a reform plan to make more students take standardized tests.
With most American children now starting a new school year, President Bush used his weekly radio address to campaign for new spending on education and to reinforce what he says are the gains of a new system of nationwide tests.
He says the so-called "No Child Left Behind Act" he signed last year is raising standards for students and teachers while giving parents more information and more choices.
"All children can learn, and the only way to make sure our children are learning is to measure their progress with tests," said the president. "So the 'No Child Left Behind Act' requires regular testing in the basics of reading and math for every child in every school, starting in the third grade. And the law sets a clear goal for American education: every child, in every school, must perform at grade level in reading and math, which are the keys to all learning."
As part of the president's plan, school districts are also providing lists of free, outside tutors for low-income children and offering parents the choice of leaving under-performing schools for better public schools elsewhere.
Mr. Bush says he is also spending more federal money on education, with a budget request for next year of more than $1 billion for reading programs. That would bring total spending on education to more than $53 billion, an increase of nearly $11 billion since the start of his administration.
The bulk of spending on education in the United States still comes from state budgets, where opposition Democrats say the president's tax cuts are hurting school spending.
In the Democratic response to the (Republican) president's weekly radio address, California Governor Gray Davis said the president's drive to create more jobs by cutting taxes abandons his commitment to education by depriving states of the resources needed to keep their schools running.
"Key investments are not being made in education and infrastructure," said Mr. Davis. "To be blunt, there's a vacuum of national leadership that is sucking up American jobs at an alarming rate. Despite all the sound bites, the president's job proposals can be boiled down to one and only one common denominator, tax cuts for the wealthy."
Democrats say the president's tax cuts are driving up the federal deficit. President Bush says the cuts mean more people are keeping more of their paychecks and are spending more money which is helping stimulate the economy.