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On School Tour, Bush Presses Education Plan

Campaign: The GOP nominee touts his 30 reform proposals before cheering students. He wraps up a two-week swing through key states today.


HOLLAND, Ohio — George W. Bush highlighted his 30 education reform proposals Thursday during the 100th school visit of his presidential bid and at the same time sharpened his attacks against what he called the Clinton administration's legacy of broken promises and governmental inaction.

Bush blamed President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for reneging on a 1992 pledge to cut taxes for the middle class; he blamed them for inciting "class warfare"; and he charged that Gore is responsible for the lack of prescription drug coverage for seniors under Medicare.

The Republican presidential nominee even pinned low voter turnout and declining interest in civic affairs on his Democratic opponent, particularly the political malaise of America's youth.

"We need someone in office who will do in office what he says he's going to do on the campaign trail," Bush told several thousand students and supporters at Springfield High School, outside of Toledo. "After seven and a half years of empty rhetoric, I can understand why the young of America have become disillusioned. Nothing's done."

Bush kept up the negative drumbeat during school visit No. 101, at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky., exhorting the cheering students to vote in November and promising them "that politics doesn't have to be ugly and mean. It doesn't have to be a system that downgrades people to bring somebody up."

Bush, who has made education a cornerstone of his campaign for president, wraps up a two-week education swing today through key states--an effort that has been regularly interrupted.

Last week the Texas governor was thrown off message when he stumbled through an explanation of his tax cut plan. This week he has been peppered with questions about a federal court ruling that said Texas has not done enough to care for children receiving Medicaid benefits.

Texas is appealing the ruling, and Bush said Thursday, "We are doing everything in our power to take care of the disadvantaged children in the state of Texas."

As Bush commemorated his 100th school visit at Springfield High, he gave a catalog of the minority schools that hosted him along the way. He went to a charter school in New York's Harlem area, he said, where "the waiting list is long," and a Phoenix campus that taught homeless children and fed their families.

And he recalled visiting the landmark site of desegregation efforts in the 1950s. "I've been to Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.," he said, "where African Americans encountered bigotry, and where white Americans encountered their conscience."

Those schools and all others, he said, would benefit from basic themes of his education reform proposals: local control, an emphasis on reading, character training and accountability.

And he said parents should be able to take their children out of failing schools and move them--along with the tax dollars that support them--to private campuses if they so desire.

"There must be consequences for failure," he declared, "for we must not allow children to be trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change."

Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell derided the milestone of 100 school visits and the education reforms that Bush is advocating, saying that after visiting so many schools "you would think Gov. Bush would have learned a thing or two about what they really need."

"They need qualified new teachers, smaller class sizes and preschool for all," she said in a written statement. "What they don't need is 100 political photo ops and a voucher plan that drains money away from our public schools."

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