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Bush Unveils 'Opportunity Package' of Domestic Initiatives

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Washington--In an apparent attempt to answer criticism that he has ignored the nation's needs here at home, President Bush last week unveiled a series of domestic-policy initiatives that he said will expand individual opportunity.

The initiatives touched on the major themes of the President's domestic agenda--educational choice, housing ownership for low-income families, the creation of jobs and businesses through tax incentives, drug- and crime-free communities, and flexibility for state and local governments in administering federal programs.

The President, preparing for a bruising battle with the Congress over civil-rights legislation, also called for an end to racial discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Within the Administration, an official said, the initiatives have become informally known as the "opportunity package."

Much of the agenda, including the Adminstration's educational choice proposal, which was highlighted in Mr. Bush's fiscal year 1992 budget, revolve around ideas the Administration has been touting since Mr. Bush took office two years ago.

In his speech to the American Society of Association Executives here, Mr. Bush said his domestic agenda will "expand opportunity and choice for all Americans."

"It's been said, 'Hope is a waking dream.' That awakening begins with learning; understanding the power and potential of individual effort; developing a skill, and with it, independence; earning a living, with dignity and personal growth," he said. "More skills mean more freedom, more options for even greater opportunity."

The President said he soon will present to the Congress legislation addressing his domestic concerns.

Education as Foundation

Mr. Bush cited education as the foundation on which economic opportunity, community safety, and individual rights are built. High-skilled jobs and crime-free communities only result from citizens who have received an adequate education, he said.

The Administration's school-choice proposals topped the Presi8dent's list of initiatives, just as they did in his budget message and in the budget text itself.

Sounding familiar themes, he said choice is the "catalyst for change" in American schools and the engine that will drive the nation toward meeting its education goals.

"We need responsive schools, customer-driven ones, if you will," Mr. Bush said. "Schools that are more market-oriented and performance-based because it's time we recognize that competition can spur excellence in our schools."

But the President also called on the education system to reward high-performance schools with flexibility in administering federal programs, a proposal Mr. Bush pushed in the first two years of his Presidency.

Such a proposal is expected to be included in the President's education legislation. An Education Department spokesman said the details of a flexibility plan have not yet been worked out.

But a flexibility-for-accountability plan, White House officials say in a fact sheet on the initiatives, will in particular assist "those students who are educationally disadvantaged."

In his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, President Bush included $690 million for his proposed "educational excellence act."

The forthcoming legislation will include $200 million to support school districts that implement choice proposals and will propose that one-half of the $449 million in Chapter 2 block-grant funds go to pay for choice programs.

Under the act, another $490 million would support, among other programs and initiatives, choice demonstration projects, magnet schools not under desegregation orders, and alternative teacher- and administrator-certification programs.

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