Gov. George W. Bush's Plans for Education in America

Article excerpt

I AM running for President because I believe our prosperity must have a purpose. We must use these times of economic prosperity to improve America's schools. Education is the constant focus of my campaign. My generation was given the gift of the best education in American history. Yet we do not share that gift with everyone. Seven of 10 fourth-graders in our highest-poverty schools cannot read a simple children's book. This is a national tragedy, and we cannot rest until we have confronted it.

As governor, education has been my passion and my priority. Texas is a big state that is getting bigger and more diverse. During my time in office, Texas added more than a quarter of a million students. This placed an enormous burden on Texas school districts to provide the education our children deserve and parents demand. But we met the challenge. We met it with a simple philosophy: education is a local responsibility, but a state priority. While giving school districts more flexibility and authority, we increased the amount of funding the state provides to the schools. As a result, school districts were able to meet the needs of rising numbers of students without raising local property taxes. In fact, a study issued by state budget experts found that the 50 largest school districts, representing 60% of the student population, reported an overall decrease in tax rates.

But more important, we reformed our public schools with a basic set of principles - high standards and high expectations, local control, and strong accountability. The results say it all. Test scores are up for all students in all grades, especially Hispanic and African American youngsters. Since I have been governor, the number of students passing all parts of our state skills test - the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) - has increased by 51%. The number of both minority students and economically disadvantaged students passing all parts of the TAAS has increased by 89%.

In fact, according to a RAND study released in July 2000, education reforms implemented in Texas have resulted in some of the highest achievement gains in the country:

* math scores in Texas have improved at twice the rate of the national average;

* Texas was second among all states in improved math scores;

* Texas leads all states in a comparison of students from similar socioeconomic and family backgrounds;

* Texas African American and non-Hispanic white fourth-graders ranked first on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math tests in 1996, and Texas Hispanic fourth-graders ranked fifth;

* Texas is one of two states that has made the greatest overall academic gains in recent years;

* Texas students of each racial and/or ethnic group scored higher than similar students in states with the same demographic characteristics; and

* since 1992, African American fourth-graders in Texas have made the greatest gains in math, and Hispanic fourth-graders have made the second-greatest gains in the nation.

I am proud of the results we have achieved in education in Texas. As President, I will achieve the same results, ensuring that no child is left behind.

America's future and hope depend directly on the education of our children - on young men and women with the skills and character to succeed. So, throughout the campaign, I have focused on the problems and promise of our public schools. And I have proposed a commonsense plan to improve our schools through high standards, local control, and accountability and through giving parents, teachers, and schools the options and resources they need to give our children the education they deserve.

In September of last year, I talked about disadvantaged children left behind by failed schools. The diminished hopes of our current system are sad and serious - the soft bigotry of low expectations. Schools that do not teach and will not change must have some final point of accountability - a moment of truth when their federal funds, intended to help the poorest children, are divided up and given to parents for tutoring or a charter school or some other hopeful option. …