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Ballot Box: Education President II; It's official; Early returns; Two men out

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When President Bush was asked at an April 10 news conference what single domestic policy goal he would most like to achieve if he wins a second term, he chose educational improvement.

"I think education reform certainly would be right up at the top of that, achieving our goals for education by the year 2000,'' the President said. "Because that would render us much more competitive internationally, which gets you over into the economic side of things, and it will lift a lot of kids out of this impoverished area, the impoverished state they're in, give them an opportunity at the American dream.''

Later, a reporter pointed out that Mr. Bush's education program has been largely rejected on Capitol Hill, and asked what he would do differently if he is re-elected.

"Get more Republicans in there and more sensible Democrats that will vote for what we want,'' Mr. Bush responded, adding that progress is being made in other areas.

"For the first time we have national education goals, arrived at in a bipartisan or nonpartisan fashion,'' he said. "And we're making progress out in the communities where we don't need legislation.''

A reporter also noted an earlier comment by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander that education would not be a major issue in the Presidential campaign because there is so little difference between Mr. Bush's education program and that of his presumed Democratic opponent, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

The President declined to criticize Mr. Clinton, praising the Governor's work on the national education goals and noted that Arkansas had signed onto Mr. Bush's America 2000 education strategy.

"If, indeed, Governor Clinton and I are close on that and the nominating process disgorges him as the nominee, why, then we'll have common ground to take to the American people--so much the better,'' Mr. Bush said. "And all Democrats that agree with us on this ought to start working on the Congress to get them to come forward with the funding for our new-schools approach and whatever else it is.''

The American Federation of Teachers last week formally endorsed Mr. Clinton. The union's local affiliates had already aided his campaign in many states.

"He not only understands the importance of the education goals to the nation's future, but also the teamwork, strategy, and resources it will take for us to get there,'' Albert Shanker, the president of the áŸæŸôŸ, said. "Unlike Bush's cynical ploys to promote vouchers and privatization, Clinton sees a new, vital role for government to play in bringing together the talents and energies of all Americans.''

In a poll conducted by Scholastic Inc., Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton received the most votes from junior-high-school students.

Ballots were included in Junior Scholastic magazine's Feb. 7 issue, which appeared before the New Hampshire primary.

More than 10,000 6th through 8th graders voted, with 54 percent voting Republican and 46 percent choosing among Democrats.

Mr. Clinton received 35 percent of the Democratic vote. But Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who has since dropped out of the race, came in second at 26 percent--much better than he did anywhere but his home state.

Former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, who won in New Hampshire and was viewed as Mr. Clinton's chief rival until he suspended his campaign last month, received 17 percent. Former Gov. Jerry Brown of California, the only Democratic candidate still actively challenging Mr. Clinton, received 12 percent, while Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska got 11 percent.

Of the students voting Republican, 59 percent voted for President Bush, 31 percent for the conservative pundit Patrick J. Buchanan, and 10 percent for David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who has yet to crack double digits in a real contest.

Senator Tim Wirth has announced that he will not seek re-election this year.

Mr. Wirth, a Colorado Democrat who sits on the Senate Budget Committee, became a favorite of education lobbyists when he sponsored a series of amendments in committee and on the Senate floor to increase spending on education programs. He received an award from the Committee for Education Funding.

Another Colorado Democrat who is nationally known for his work on education issues flirted with the idea of running for Mr. Wirth's seat, but decided against it.

Gov. Roy Romer, a member of the National Education Goals Panel and a leader on testing issues, initially told reporters he would consider a Senate run, but then said he would stay out of the race.--J.M.

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