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George W. Bush Delivers Remarks on Education

Aired August 29, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And George W. Bush is planning on changing these trends in the polls with several appearances this week. His subject is education. Today he's at Moore Middle School in Portland, Maine.

Let's listen to what George W. Bush has to say.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... to us that's too exclusionary. It means us and not you. We have a system we call English plus. English is important, to be able to read and write, plus we respect your heritage and your background and history. Now, before I go on, I also want to recognize somebody you allowed to slip across the border. The United States senator from the state of New Hampshire and my dear friend, Judd Gregg.

Thank you for coming as well, Judd.


Just a couple of thoughts about my drive for educational excellence for every child. I can remember walking through schools in Texas where it became quite evident, by implication, that certain children can't learn, and therefore it was justifiable just to move them through. And it broke my heart to think that there -- the system was such that people gave up on children, but because of their background, or maybe where and how they were raised, that it was acceptable practice to move kids through the system without asking fundamental questions, starting with: What do you know? And if you don't know what you're supposed to know, we'll make sure you do early before it's too late.

One of the responsibilities of a leader is to set clear and understandable goals.

When I was elected there were over, like, 30 goals in the public school system. I used to tell people there's so many goals, there were no goals. I mean, maybe you could achieve 20 of the 30, but one of the 10 might be teaching children to read, and that wasn't achieved in this whole system we created. So we set four goals in Texas; easy to understand, and more importantly, easy to manage it, and easy to measure. And this was proficiency in English, math, science and social science. Excellence for every child. Secondly, we believe in local control of schools. That is an important tenet, not only in the state of Texas. I believe it's an important tenet in the country; one size does not fit all.

I assure you, the schools in the district where Norma (ph) is really different from the schools in Caribou, Maine, Senator. I mean they were different. The goals may be the same, but there's different issues. And therefore, we got to trust local people to chart the path to excellence. I want to empower the Rod Pages (ph) of America.

This, kind of, prescriptive nature of the federal government, you know, with all kinds of paperwork and requirements saying, "We will give you money, but you -- you got to tap dance to our tune," has got to end if we encourage educational excellence for every child.

But let me tell you what we really learned. We've learned that if you measure, you enhance excellence. And when you hold people up to standards and free them, and say, "Give us the results, show us," and not only that, but make sure the results are available for everybody to see, and that they're disaggregated, which is a fancy education word for breaking them down by race and income level, that it's a process -- it's a start of making sure that no child gets left behind.

And some people say, "Well, if that's the case, how does it relate to the federal government?" Well, here's how it relates to the federal government: If you receive money from the federal government, we expect you to measure and we expect you to show the nation whether or not you're meeting standards.

You see, I believe that measurement is the cornerstone to reform and measurement is the cornerstone to making sure children learn. And I'm going to ask the Congress to pass a bill that says, in return for receipt of federal money, and in return for flexibility, for the federal dollars you receive, you must show us, you must show the nation, you must show the people in your area whether or not children can read, write, add and subtract. If they can, there'll be rewards. If they can't, there must be a final moment of consequence in order for the accountability systems to mean anything.

In order for accountability to be worth its salt, there has to be a moment, and that moment is instead of continuing to subsidize mediocrity, after a reasonable period of time, the parents will have a different choice with the federal money.

Now, this stands in stark contrast to the status quo. And I want to tell you, point blank, the status quo is unacceptable in America. The achievement gap that John (ph) talked about must be closed, if this country is going to -- if this country's great dream is going to hold its promise for everybody.

It's unacceptable to me that there is an achievement gap in America. It should be unacceptable to the voters that over the past seven years nothing has changed.

In order to change the achievement gap, we must hold people accountable. We must have a different set of reforms and the contrast is stark. It just is. It's the difference between a campaign that wants to hold people accountable and a campaign that has got the illusion of accountability.

And my opponent, he's a good fellow, he cares about education, but he doesn't want to hold people accountable. Maybe it's because of the constituencies he's -- behind him as such, but he believes that the accountability is that you can test if you so feel like it, in fourth and eighth grade.

But my question is, what happens in the third grade and fifth grade and sixth grade and seventh grade matters just as much as what happens in the fourth grade and eighth.

We have an achievement gap in America. And for those good citizens who are concerned about closing that achievement gap, my argument is, and you're going to hear it today, we need to think differently in America. And we have got a record to back it up. And I want to start with a fine superintendent of schools named Rod Page.

WATERS: All right, that's George W. Bush. His campaign theme of the week is education, education reform. He casts himself as an education reformer. He's speaking there of the achievement gap in the United States to be reformed with accountability. My opponent, he says, a good fellow, does not favor accountability.

His "good fellow" opponent will be speaking in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His issue of the week is prescription -- is, rather, health care. And today, it's health care for children. We'll be checking in with Al Gore when that happens.

Tomorrow morning, incidentally, Governor Bush will grant his first online interview to That chat is scheduled for 9:10 Eastern, 6:10 Pacific. It will be carried as well here on CNN. That's George W. Bush tomorrow morning on CNN and



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