Ballot Box: On the record; On children's issues
President Bush last week attacked the education record of his Democratic rival, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, in a series of six speeches in Mr. Clinton's home region.
The Clinton campaign offered rejoinders--and a letter from Mr. Bush praising Mr. Clinton for his efforts at the 1989 education summit.
"During the 1980's, Arkansas fell from 47th to 48th place in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma,'' Mr. Bush said in Springfield, Mo.
He also noted that the state's scores on the American College Testing Program ranked 25th among the 28 states that use the exam, while they were ranked 20th in 1979.
"And we know that more than three-quarters of Arkansas high school graduates require remedial instruction when they get to college,'' Mr. Bush said. "Now, these are bright, dynamic young people. And they deserve better than a failed education system.''
"And when it comes to the percentage of adults with a college degree, Governor Clinton's Arkansas still ranks 50th,'' he said.
Spokesmen for Mr. Clinton pointed out that while Arkansas students' áŸãŸôŸ rankings have dropped, the average scores have remained constant although more students take the test. College-going rates have increased dramatically during Mr. Clinton's tenure, they added..
Spokesmen also noted that the effects of reforms instituted by Mr. Clinton in the mid-1980's will not be seen for years.
To cap off its rebuttal, the Clinton camp released a handwritten note President Bush sent to Mr. Clinton after the summit he held with the nation's governors.
"Well done--oh so well done,'' Mr. Bush wrote. "You were a joy to work with on the summit and all our folks feel that way.''
"I guess partisan politics will strain some relationships in 90 but I really want to keep Education Reform out there above the fray. I'll try to do that and I know you will continue to as well. Great Job.''
Representatives from the two campaigns last week answered questions on children's issues during a teleconference sponsored by the Coalition for America's Children.
Wade Horn, the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, defended the Bush Administration's record, noting that Congress plans to adopt the President's proposed $600 million increase for Head Start. He also said Mr. Bush's parental-choice program would allow poor children to attend the schools of their choice.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., said Mr. Clinton would work to fully fund the Head Start program for eligible 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds; would sign the "family and medical leave act''; and would reform health care to insure that more poor children get adequate care.
Questions were phoned in from across the country, and were preceded by taped statements from Mr. Clinton and Dr. Louis Sullivan, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.--J.M. & M.P.