George W. Bush today described the Clinton administration's efforts to advance technology education as convoluted and burdened by bureaucracy, and he proposed consolidating all of those initiatives under one $3 billion program.
At the same time, he proposed $400 million in new spending over the next five years for the Education Department to research ways that technology can be used to boost student achievement and to create a clearinghouse that states and local officials can use to learn about education technology programs.
Bush said that as president he would consolidate the Federal Communications Commission's School and Libraries program with eight Education Department programs and free schools from the tangle of paperwork that makes it difficult to apply for federal dollars. In addition, he said he would loosen restrictions in the FCC's so-called E-Rate program, which seeks to wire schools and libraries.
Under Bush's plan, schools also would be able to spend the money to purchase computer hardware and software, and pay for teacher training.
Bush faulted the Clinton administration--and, implicitly, Vice President Gore, who has made technology education a key issue--for "missing the point" by supporting a system that he said seeks to improve technology but makes no effort to determine whether new technology is improving student achievement.
At an event at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School here, Bush said the top concern in his administration would not be how many schools "are wired, but what are children learning. My campaign will be about challenging process and focusing on results."
As part of what he calls "the smart use of technology," Bush said he would ensure accountability in the use of federal money by asking states to measure how education technology funds improve student achievement.
Gore aides responded that Bush had ignored an existing program called the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, which provides $425 million annually to help schools purchase computers and equipment and train teachers.
Bush's announcement came on the first leg of a three-day West Coast swing that will take him through two states--Washington and California--that are engines of the new economy.
At the elementary school, Bush sat next to his wife, Laura, a former teacher and librarian, as part of a panel of educators. At one point, he remarked that "frankly, I think it's the toughest job in America to be on the local school board." Before now, Bush has frequently said that "the toughest job in America is a single mother with two kids."
Tonight Bush made two fundraising stops in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. He raised $400,000 for his campaign in the first event, which was interrupted by death penalty protesters shouting for Bush to spare the life of death row inmate Gary Graham. At the second, he helped to raise another $3.5 million, which will be divided among Bush, the state GOP and the Republican National Committee. Campaign officials said Bush would help raise approximately $2 million more at an event Tuesday in Los Angeles. That money also will be divided three ways.
The campaign gleefully boasted that it had outdone Gore, who helped raise about $2.6 million for the Democratic Party at a Silicon Valley fundraiser in mid-April.