Dole Lambastes Clinton, Unveils `Education Warranty' Republican Candidate Touts Spelling Bees, Phonics

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After calling President Bill Clinton a "pliant pet" of teachers unions, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole promised on Wednesday to turn greater control of public schools over to parents.

"We need a government that gives the parents of America fewer orders and more options," he said in unveiling what he called an "education consumers' warranty."

In an afternoon speech nostalgic for school days of phonics and spelling bees, Dole derided "global awareness" and "diversity" curriculums that he charged have supplanted the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic.

And he accused Clinton of sacrificing students to teachers unions and leaving them with stagnant college aptitude test scores, and rising illiteracy and school dropout rates.

"Over our public schools hangs an air of failure, frustration and futility," Dole said. "Our public schools today are suffering from a generation's worth of bad ideas that have little or nothing to do with giving our kids a good education."

Of Clinton, Dole advised, "You cannot be a leader in education and at the same time be a pliant pet of militant teachers unions," which contribute to Democratic campaigns.

Albert Shanker, president of the 900,000-member American Federation of Teachers, responded that Dole is a "Johnny-come-lately to the discussion about education reform."

College aptitude test scores are stagnant now, but they were under the Ronald Reagan and George Bush presidencies, too, Shanker said.

While school choice was the theme of Dole's 20-minute speech, he stopped short of calling for federal vouchers to subsidize private school tuition for low- and middle-income families. Aides said Dole would unveil a school-choice proposal - likely to include vouchers - in a speech today in Milwaukee, where a state pilot program is already in place.

During the Republican primary campaign, Dole proposed federal vouchers as a way to give parents more control over their children's education.

On Wednesday, he said, "There is no right more basic than the right of every parent in this country to choose which school their own child will attend."

Playing To Conservatives

Clinton, who has peppered his own campaign with education talk, favors public-school choice but is against giving parents vouchers of tax money to send their children to private or religious schools. …