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Alexander Seeks Political Boost By Rewarding Inventive Schools

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WAHINGTON--Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander last week launched a school-recognition program that he acknowledges will give him a chance to tout President Bush's education record in visits across the country in the two months leading up to the Presidential election.

Mr. Alexander said he plans to visit roughly one-half of the sites that will receive the designation as an "A+ for Breaking the Mold'' school.

Under the program, which began on Sept. 1, the department will make a daily award until the end of the year.

Among the first awards bestowed by Mr. Alexander was one to a Baltimore school being operated, along with eight others in Baltimore, by Education Alternatives Inc., a publicly held company based in Minneapolis.

Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, criticized as "patently silly'' the Secretary's decision "to give an award for successful educational innovation before the experiment has even started in earnest.''

Mr. Alexander acknowledged that the awards will serve as a political vehicle.

"The political season is a time, and a good time, when we try to help the American people understand the issues,'' he said.

Mr. Alexander estimated that he will visit two or three schools a week and said that he will likely meet with local Republican Party officials or raise money for the President during some of the trips.

"It would be odd if the Education Secretary didn't recognize'' that he is in the middle of a campaign, he said.

Mr. Alexander went on to say that he hopes "education is an issue in the campaign.''

Acknowledging the roles of both Mr. Bush and his opponent, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, in formulating the six goals at the education summit in Charlottesville, Va., in 1989, Mr. Alexander said the key difference between the two candidates is that the President "is more willing to change and be more innovative.''

"Bill Clinton is pretty much lined up with the NEA [National Education Association], Ted Kennedy [the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee], and Bill Ford [the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee], who are pretty much against'' higher standards, choice programs that include private schools, and a national testing system, Mr. Alexander said.

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said, "I think with 60 days left in the campaign, the education President has finally realized the education needs of the country.''

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