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Democrats: Bush broke prescription promise

Democrats: Bush broke prescription promise

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush touted education overhauls Saturday in his weekly radio address, Democrats used theirs to accuse him of breaking a campaign pledge to fund prescription drug coverage for all older Americans.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said Bush's prescription drug plan supports about 30 percent of older Americans, but does not cover about 7 million members of the middle class.

Rockefeller said Bush's budget provides less money for prescription drugs than Congress approved last year, even though prices are climbing at five times the rate of inflation.

"The dreams of millions of seniors are threatened by the runaway cost of prescription drugs," Rockefeller said. "They know that a single chronic illness could steal their retirement savings."

Rockefeller said Bush promised to provide prescription drug coverage for "every senior" during his presidential campaign.

"I am saddened that the president has broken a critical campaign promise to protect older Americans," Rockefeller said.

President Bush has called for full prescription drug coverage as part of an overall Medicare overhaul. His budget calls for a $190 billion net increase in Medicare spending, according to the White House Web site.

It proposes a discount card that would save all older Americans up to 25 percent on prescription drugs and give states funding to help pay for prescription coverage for about 3 million people, the site said.

The White House said it would take a few years to set up a program to provide full coverage to all older Americans.

Bush touts education reform

In his address, Bush said he would focus next week on providing flexibility for school districts to use federal funds where needs are greatest.

Under the law Bush signed in January, districts can use the money to reduce class sizes, improve teacher training or boost salaries, he said in the Republicans' weekly radio address.

"We're asking a lot of our teachers, and we owe them something in return. We must treat them as the professionals they are. We must give them our respect and support," Bush said.

The law -- dubbed the No Child Left Behind Act -- is a broad rewrite of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The president said the law ushers in "a new era of accountability," and that parents will have more information about their children's school performances and more say in how they are educated.

The law includes nearly $3 billion for teacher training, recruiting and hiring, an increase of more than 35 percent over the last year's budget, the president said.

The measure also proposes expanding programs that recruit math, science and special education teachers by forgiving part of their college loans in exchange for a commitment to teaching in poor neighborhoods for at least five years, Bush said.


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