Bush wants hike in education aid
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 9:23 p.m.
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush said Saturday he wants $1 billion more for federal programs to educate poor children, a budget request Democrats said would be inadequate.
Bush's focus on education in his weekly radio address comes ahead of Wednesday's one-year anniversary of his signing of legislation intended to give poor families more control over their children's schooling.
The president, along with first lady Laura Bush, plans to mark the day with a White House speech on the No Child Left Behind Act.
Bush's budget request to Congress in February will include $12.3 billion in the 2004 budget year for the federal Title I program for low-income students. If approved, that would be more dollars than ever for the program, said the president, who was returning to Washington on Sunday after a two-week holiday vacation.
In advance of Bush's spending plan and State of the Union speech, the White House is likely to announce a series of proposed funding increases. But details - about cuts elsewhere and shifts in funds - probably will not be known until release of his budget.
In the past two years, the Bush administration has increased federal spending on schools by 40 percent, to more than $22 billion in the current school year, the president said.
Bush often has cited his administration's education efforts in speeches over the past year. Also, the education law appears on a recently developed internal White House document as an important accomplishment to be used for the president's re-election campaign in 2004.
But Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who helped develop the legislation with Bush, contended that the president has failed to allot enough money for schools to fulfill the law's promise.
He said the increase Bush has in mind for next year was $6 billion less than the bill allows.
"Reform without resources is just hollow talk - not the real improvement our children need and deserve," Kennedy said in a statement. "The president's proposal may provide the money to test our children, but not enough to teach them. It's wrong to ask schools to do better on pocket change, especially as states face $68 billion shortfalls."
But Bush's pledge was applauded by GOP Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
"A lot is being spent - and a lot is being expected," Boehner said. "Democrat leaders have repeatedly said they want more spending than the president has proposed, but they've never explained where the money would come from."
The law allows students to transfer to a different public school if their own school fails to meet state standards.
It requires annual state tests in reading and mathematics for every child in grades three through eight, beginning in the fall of 2005. Under current law, states are required to test students three times in reading and math.
Schools with stagnant scores get more money, but students must be offered the option of transferring to better-performing public schools. After three years, a school district must offer tutoring at its expense. After four years, it must begin paying transportation costs of students who opt to attend other schools.
"Too many students and lower income families fall behind early, resulting in a terrible gap in test scores between these students and their more fortunate peers," Bush said. "Our reforms will not be complete until every child in America has an equal chance to succeed in school and rise in the world."
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