WASHINGTON — President Bush pledged Saturday to work to enlist a new generation of well-trained teachers to help America's children succeed in school and beyond.
Highlighting his education agenda, Bush said in his weekly radio address: "The effectiveness of all education reform eventually comes down to a good teacher in a classroom.
"In our new era of education reform, we're asking a lot of our teachers, and we owe them something in return," the president said. "We must treat them as the professionals they are. We must give them our respect and support.
"A good teacher can literally make a lifelong difference."
Bush said that America will need 2 million new teachers over the next decade and that the budget he approved for this year includes nearly $3 billion for teacher training, recruiting and hiring. That is an increase of more than 35% over the previous year's budget, he said.
But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate education committee, said Bush's budget "cuts the very programs that recruit new teachers, improve teacher quality and reduce class size."
"Our teachers need real help, not empty words," Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement in which he described Bush's education budget as "a severe blow to our public schools."
Bush will focus on teacher recruitment during a trip Monday to Minnesota, and he intends to feature efforts to improve public school education in a series of events over the next few weeks.
Aides say they are frustrated that Bush has not received more credit and attention for signing a landmark education overhaul bill that stressed school accountability.
The Bush education plan requires schools to test student achievement, monitor teacher quality and close the gap between poor and middle-income students--and white and minority students.
Bush has asked Congress to expand programs that recruit math, science and special-education teachers by forgiving part of their college loans in exchange for a commitment to teach in poor neighborhoods for at least five years. He also wants to make it easier for people who have been successful in other fields to become teachers.
But he noted that a high percentage of teachers say they feel ill-prepared for their jobs.
"We'll focus on teacher training efforts where the need is greatest--in early childhood education, special education, math, science and reading instruction," the president said.
Through a reading program, Bush said, "we are placing a new emphasis on the most basic of skills, and many of our teachers will need training in the best and proven methods of reading instruction."
Bush was spending the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David in western Maryland. He had his daily intelligence briefing before being visited by his dentist Saturday.
The president and First Lady Laura Bush planned to attend the annual fund-raising gala at Ford's Theatre tonight.