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  •   Gore's Educational Agenda Sounds Familiar

    Al Gore, AP
    Vice President Gore gestures to graduates before giving the commencement address at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, Sunday. (AP)
    By Ceci Connolly
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, May 17, 1999; Page A2

    LAMONI, Iowa, May 16 Vice President Gore, in an address to college graduates today, sketched out his vision for American education in the 21st century, a vision that combines old-fashioned discipline with more modern classrooms, stricter teacher standards and new tax breaks for worker retraining.

    Billed as Gore's first major policy address of the presidential campaign, the speech was an extension--and, at times, outright appropriation--of President Clinton's education agenda.

    Gore proposed relicensing teachers every five years and requiring parents, teachers and students to adhere to tough disciplinary codes.

    "We should treat teachers like professionals, we should pay them like professionals, and we should hold them to high professional standards," Gore said.

    He also called for the creation of a new Teachers Corps that would offer $10,000 in college tuition to those who would teach for four years.

    "In order to stay first in the world economically, we must become first in the world educationally," he told about 3,000 people gathered for commencement exercises at Graceland College, a small, private school in southern Iowa. "To keep the best GDP, we need the best SATs."

    Gore reiterated his opposition to school vouchers and endorsed Clinton's call for extending the Family Leave Act to parents attending meetings at their child's school.

    He called his approach revolutionary, noting: "In order to meet our needs for a dynamic future, we need to shake up the status quo."

    Yet many of the concepts such as "second chance schools" and online "e-tutors" were ill-defined, and Gore did not provide cost estimates for his proposals. Still other items in the speech--voluntary preschool for all and wiring every school for the Internet--are Gore staples.

    Republican presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, who eagerly fielded phone calls after Gore's 30-minute speech, said the vice president's "proposals all add up to a national school board, and we need local school boards." Alexander, a former education secretary, claimed his plan to send federal education money back to parents to let them "shop" for a school is far more revolutionary than Gore's approach.

    Linda Schneider, a field representative for the Iowa State Education Association, said that when she joined Gore on his bus for a ride to Ottumwa, he touted several of his education ideas but did not mention the recertification proposal. "I don't always think paper and pencil tests are the best approach," she said.

    Gore arrived in Iowa Saturday after a bumpy week in Washington, in which Clinton told the New York Times that he had worried about Gore's campaign and advised the vice president to stop micromanaging it. The story triggered a new round of finger-pointing and grousing inside the Gore camp; several aides, describing the incident as a disaster, said the vice president was furious.

    When Gore landed in Des Moines, Democratic activists were well aware of the controversy. "The president may be worried about you, but we're not," Paulee Lipsman told Gore.

    Iowa Democratic Chairman Rob Tully, when asked whether Clinton's remarks were helpful, replied: "Not really."

    Gore's aides hoped today's commencement address would help shift the political chatter away from his organizational and stylistic problems and onto policy matters on which they believe Gore will shine.

    "This is clearly the opening of a new phase of the campaign," said Gore policy adviser Elaine Kamarck. "This is the first time he has spoken this extensively about things he would do as president."

    Although Gore has no plans to break with Clinton orthodoxy, Kamarck said a series of upcoming policy speeches will enable the vice president to "talk about his own ideas and what kind of a president he would be."

    Since the massacre at Columbine High School, Gore has urged a multifaceted approach to youth violence. Today he called for more character education courses, tougher gun control measures and "second chance schools" that would intercept troubled youth and enroll them in separate, stricter schools.

    Throughout the address, Gore returned to the themes of discipline and character, pressing parents to teach their children values.

    "It's not enough just to be in the same house. You have to talk--a lot," he said. "A virtual deadbeat dad isn't much better than a real live deadbeat dad."

    Gore promised more details on his 401(j) accounts that would enable families to save for education without paying taxes on the savings.

    "We help people save for retirement tax-free, and help them pay their mortgages tax-free," he said. "Now we must help them save tax-free for one of the biggest expenses most families will ever face in life--sending a child to college."

    Much of his two-day Iowa swing was dedicated to retail campaigning. His "Iowa Town Tour," complete with giant silver bus and hog roast this evening, began Saturday with the opening of Gore's Des Moines offices.

    "This is not only the opening of a headquarters; it is the beginning of a crusade that is going to reach all 99 counties, all 948 cities in Iowa and every single citizen in Iowa," he growled into a microphone. "With your help, we're going to win the Iowa caucuses. Then we're going to roll out of that victory to take this country by storm because we've got a job to do."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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