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Education Set to Take Center Stage in Election

This fall Bush and Clinton will clash on how to improve schools

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ONE year after President Bush announced his 10-year America 2000 strategy to beef up the nation's schools, the self-proclaimed "education president" may be put to the test.

United States Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander confidently told reporters at a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday that "education will be a good symbol of the president's leadership," during this year's campaign.

But Mr. Bush's most formidable challenger, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, views the president's education record as a weakness to exploit during the campaign.

An educational reformer in his own state, Mr. Clinton charges the White House with lackluster leadership in fostering ways to learn more, teach better, and provide the poor and middle class with adequate educational opportunities.

When Bush called for an education summit of the governors of the 50 states in 1989, Clinton responded by canvassing the educational field for input and establishing state governors' priorities for education. Critics say Bush brought nothing to the summit.

Secretary Alexander contends that his department has been the "spark plug" for a radical change in the country's educational agenda. "The Democratic candidates by and large know that the president is doing what the president ought to do, and most of the Democrats across the country are involved with the president in changing the American educational system, including Governor Clinton," he says.

On April 18, 1991, the White House announced ways to revitalize the ailing American educational system. Over half of the 43 governors whose communities have adopted some of the so-called America 2000 measures are Democrats. With only a marginal amount of federal money (schools come under the purview of state and local jurisdictions, which provide roughly 94 percent of the financing), the administration set out to slowly convert schools across the country.

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