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Bush's G.O.P. Challengers Omit Education As a Key Issue In the Campaign

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The two Republican candidates challenging President Bush this year appear to be driven more by the desire to thrust certain issues into the Presidential debate than by any realistic prospect of capturing the G.o.P. nomination.

Neither Patrick J. Buchanan, a columnist and a former White House aide, or David E. Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, has made education one of those issues.

And when they do talk about education, both Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Duke focus on support of parental choice, school prayer, and the teaching of values--all positions Mr. Bush takes, too, albeit without the same ultraconservative rhetoric.

Patrick 1. Buchanan

When Mr. Buchanan, who has built his "America First" campaign around a near-isolationist view of trade and foreign policy, talks about education, it is frequently to call for the teaching of "Western values."

Mr. Buchanan maintains that the schools should help preserve the United States "as an English-speaking, Western nation dedicated to Judeo-Christian values," according to his campaign literature.

To do so, schools must vigorously teach U.S. and European history, the English language, and American literature, he argues. In addition, the candidate has promised to fight for a constitutional amendment allowing voluntary prayer, Bible reading, and religious instruction in public schools.

Mr. Buchanan has not yet developed any specific proposals to spur education reform, according to an aide. But he is sharply critical of the "education establishment."

"American education is in a state of decline, largely the result of an ever-increasing bureaucracy, and a lack of competition within the system," he says in a brief position paper. "From affirmative action in hiring to busing for racial balance and assaults on uniform, standard testing, too much ideologically motivated experimentation has been inflicted on public schools."

Local education officials need to be able to hire and fire teachers, and parents should insist on accountability from teachers, administrators, and principals, the position paper contends.

Mr. Buchanan also believes that parents should have the flexibility to send their children to any school they wish. Such a voucher program "will create market pressures on education at the local level to produce what students need most--real learning," his campaign document predicts.

Under Mr. Buchanan's plan to reduce taxes and freeze or trim federal domestic spending, the campaign aide said, specific education programs would be evaluated to determine their worthiness of federal support.

Mr. Buchanan, a 52-year-old former assistant to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, was writing a syndicated newspaper column and appearing on several televised political talk shows before launching his Presidential bid.

Most political observers say Mr. Buchanan's real goal is to gain control of the Republican Party's agenda for the conservative wing of the party.

David E. Duke

In his Presidential campaign, Mr. Duke is delivering much the same racially charged message he did in his unsuccessful bid for the Louisiana governorship last fall: that middle-class Americans are being unfairly squeezed by minority preferences that cost them jobs and by wasteful social programs that squander their tax dollars on undeserving welfare recipients.

His expressed views on education have been limited to support of parental choice, increased local control of schools, and a halt to desegregation efforts.

The term "local control" provides the foundation for Mr. Duke's views on education, according to his writings and a former administrative assistant.

Glenn Montecino, who was an aide to Mr. Duke when he was a member of the Louisiana House, said the candidate does not yet have a campaign staff tracking issues such as education.

Mr. Duke has written that organizations such as the National Education Association have "sought to wrest control of public schooling in America from local, county, and state authorities to a more centralized authority."

While he is a critic of attempts to create "multicultural" curricula, Mr. Duke says he would not object to a predominantly black community adopting an Afrocentric curriculum.

Similarly, however, "parents in rural Southern towns, or anywhere else," should be able to decide if students can pray in public schools, he asserts.

Parents should also be able to decide where to send their children to school, Mr. Duke says. He favors a tax credit of up to $1,200 to all parents to help them defer the costs of sending their child to a private school or a public school outside of their district.

The candidate also believes that market competition would force poorer schools to get better, while providing openings for new schools to spring up in the gaps of school failures, Mr. Montecino said.

In concert with that proposal, Mr. Duke has called for the end of busing to promote integration.

"Busing for the purpose of forcibly integrating the public-school system may bring orgasmic delight to many an egalitarian social engineer, but the practice of forced busing has proved, more than any other single factor, to be the Waterloo of public education," he has written. "With busing came an immediate and steady dwindling of parental involvement and P.T.A.-type support."

Mr. Duke also favors tracking students according to ability.

Information for this story was gathered by Washington Editor Julie A. Miller and Staff Writer Mark Pitsch.

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