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George W. Bush Delivers Remarks in Bosque Farms, New Mexico

Aired October 30, 2000 - 12:14 p.m. ET


FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Turnout is something the candidates are watching very closely. We want to take you to an election event, a campaign event in Bosque Farms, New Mexico now.

George W. Bush is there taking the latest take on his campaign.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I want to -- so I want to thank you all for you hospitality, Steve. And thanks for all your teachers and folks that have made our visit possible.

It seems like with one week to go in the campaign I'm traveling with a lot of people.


I think it's fitting that we start the last week of the campaign in a school. This is one of my priorities as the governor of Texas was to make sure every public school work, that no child is left behind. One of my priorities as the president will be to work with local folks to make sure public education fulfills its promise. I can't think of a more important issue as we head into the 21st century, to make sure every child -- I mean, every child is educated -- and not one single child is left behind.

And the challenges will be great because our economy is changing and the priority on making sure our children can think and can make a living, you know, not only with their backs, but be able to make a living because they're able to think well. And so schools are going to be so important as you know, Mr. Principal. And you're doing a fine job here.

One of the reasons we wanted to come to Bosque Farms is because it's a school that is willing to stick to the basics and stay focused on every child, on every child.

The role of the federal government is one that needs to stand on the side of reform. The role of the federal government is to spend money wisely, but not to dictate to local districts. It's not to tell the good folks in New Mexico how to run your schools. See, we believe in local control of schools. We stand on that strong principle that the local folks know how best to chart the path to excellence for the children in their communities.

I worry about those in Washington who think they've got all the answers to all the education problems that may exist in some districts. That kind of mentality is the kind of mentality that causes people to think on behalf of its local citizens, to replace local control with Washington mandates.

BUSH: One of my objectives will be to work with both Republicans and Democrats to pass power on the 6 or 7 percent of the federal money back to local jurisdictions, because one size doesn't fit all. You know that in New Mexico and we certainly know that in the great state of Texas. One size doesn't fit all.

Secondly, the federal government can help local jurisdictions meet some important goals. One of the reasons we came to this school is because you're meeting the most important goal of all, and that's to teach every child to read. To have a "no excuses" policy. Understand that every child can read.

And when you come from a state like New Mexico or a state like Texas, one understands some of the difficulties that a school can face. After all, we've got parents in our schools who don't speak English as a first language, some don't speak English at all.

But that's no excuse. That's no reason to quit on any child. Matter of fact, it's an unbelievably important opportunity. So our view -- my view on any reading initiative has got be -- says that we're going to help local districts with money. You can access the money, but you got to have a strategy that works. It starts with early diagnostic tools available for K-2 teachers.

You see, our attitude is, if you don't diagnose a problem, you can't solve it. Now, right across the border in Texas, we developed a K-2 diagnostic tool that's easy to administer, that lets teachers and principals see where -- see where a deficiency may exist early.

BUSH: And then we focused resources to solve those deficiencies. We said, "Here's some money. You use it the way you see fit, but it's got to be to teach every single child to read."

An important part of a good reading program is to have a curriculum that works. Phonics is an incredibly important curriculum. Phonics is not only important for children who've been in America for a long time, but it turns out that phonics works for the newly arrived as well. It's a good way to give children the basics to be able to comprehend and read in English.

BUSH: And it's important as well to make sure that teachers are trained in curriculum that works. In my state, we found that sometimes teachers, you know, have got great hearts, but they don't have the skills necessary to be good reading teachers. And so we got to use, in my judgment, the flexibility at the federal level to say to local districts, "If you want to retrain your teachers, please do so."

It's important to arm our teachers with not only a curriculum that works, but safe classrooms, too. I know you all have done a good job here in this school, but some schools don't have the work environment that we would like. And there's a role for the federal government to pass teacher protection laws, laws that say, if a teacher or principal or school board enforces reasonable standards of discipline in classrooms, they can't be sued for enforcing those disciplines.


I'm going to challenge what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations, the mindset that sometimes says that certain kids can't learn, and therefore let's just move them through. As we head to the 21st century, that attitude is not acceptable, at least it won't be acceptable to my administration.


So I'm going to work with local districts to raise the bar, to have the highest of high expectations, insist upon local control of schools, and work with schools and districts to measure, insist they ask the question: Can children read?

I know you hear all the time about, "Well, we can't have accountability because it means teachers will teach the test." Here's my attitude: Teaching a child to read, teaching a child to comprehend, is not teaching to a test, it is teaching a child so the child can pass a reading comprehension test.

BUSH: And yet I repeat a philosophy that is so important: If you don't measure, how do you know? And if you don't know whether or not children are learning to read or write and add and subtract, sometimes you just move children through the system. And that's unacceptable.

Thirdly, the federal government can stand on the side of parents when it comes to a part of education that is just as critical as teaching a child to read or write and add and subtract, and that's standing on the side of American parents who are teaching their children the difference between right and wrong.

The federal government needs to be a ally for parents, which means character education. Character education is being taught in this school. And I suspect it's one of the key ingredients why this school is doing well in the accountability system in New Mexico.


It is a proper role for the federal government to fund character education programs all across America. We should not be afraid in our society to teach values which have stood the test of time, values that when our youngsters learn them will make them better citizens in this great land, values that ultimately will help them make the right choices in life.

We ought to have Internet filters in public schools and public libraries, so as to keep pornography and violence out of the hands of children. We ought to work to have family hour on television programs, so that a parent would know that there's programs that are worthy to be in their home. We also ought to encourage parents to use the off-on button if they're not happy with what's coming in to their home.


One of the themes I addressed in this campaign last week, and I will continue to talk about it some this week, is the need for our nation to work together to have a period of time, a culture, that says each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life, that if you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children. A responsible period, a responsibility era, starts at home.

BUSH: But one of the most crucial parts about making sure this American experience shines brightly for everybody -- para todos -- is that every child be educated. Part of having a responsible society is to have educated children, children not only who have earned self- esteem by being able to learn, but children who have been taught by a compassionate society that there are right choices to make in life and wrong choices to make in life. We have come to this...


Prior to the big rally at the airport, they were telling me that a lot of folks are out there ready to scream. I'm glad we are invited here to be able to talk about an important issue, to be able to herald success, to be able to highlight that local control of schools works, to be able to speak about a community that has come together to provide a hopeful future for every child, regardless of their background, regardless of where their parents may have been born, for every single child. That's what America's about. That's the greatness of this nation. We're all Americans. We all live in the greatest land that God has put on the face of the Earth, one nation, indivisible and under God.

Thank you for letting us come by.


And God bless.


SESNO: George W. Bush in Bosque Farms, New Mexico, striking the themes that he often does in his speeches, focusing on education, saying it's apt in this particular case to begin the last week of the campaign at a school. He's tried to make that one of the main focal points of his campaign. Focusing on local initiative and the role of the federal government to support local control of schools, and certainly on the issue of accountability.

George W. Bush and Al Gore both making a big play for the issue of education and improving the nation's schools in this countdown to election, eight days until the vote. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT


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