President Reagan said yesterday that Democratic presidential candidates who have urged spending more federal money on schools are simply "political voices that saw a campaign horse to ride."
In a clear reference to former vice president Walter F. Mondale and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), Reagan said in his weekly radio broadcast:
"One of the noisemakers wants the federal government to add $11 billion to federal education spending. Another demands $14 billion. And most of them accuse us of whacking the budget down to a starvation level."
Mondale and Hollings both argue that the need for more spending on schools was made clear by the National Commission on Excellence in Education report that found American education being "eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity."
Reagan has said added spending is unnecessary. He cited figures on federal education spending for the past three years but didn't note that his budget proposals for education were much smaller than the final amounts approved by Congress.
Reagan also said that comparing federal spending on education ($15.3 billion this year) with federal defense spending ($214.8 billion this year) "is ridiculous."
If state and local spending is included, he said, the outlay for education in the 1982-83 school year would be $215.3 billion--excluding $30 billion spent by the Pentagon and corporations on remedial and employe education or "what parents spend on books."
Reagan said the education commission "talked of something that could translate into more money: better pay for better teachers to attract the brightest and the best to choose teaching as a career. Do what is done in every other profession and business: offer merit pay raises for those who earn and deserve them....Let's ignore the noisemakers and set sail."
In the Democratic radio rejoinder, House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) said the House vote for a bipartisan budget compromise last week and for a cap of about $700 on the July 1 tax cut are "two steps to restore fairness and fiscal sanity to our government."
Reagan "is not against taxes," said Wright. "He is just against taxes for the wealthy. Last August he asked for increased taxes on your telephone bill, your airline fare, your gallon of gasoline...but he threatens to veto a bill that puts any ceiling on additional windfall tax cuts for the wealthiest 5 percent" of taxpayers.