Education Takes Center Stage At GOP Convention

By Erik W. Robelen — July 31, 2000 3 min read
Web Extra!

Education will take center stage today as the Republican National Convention officially gets under way.

Educators are among today’s featured speakers, and they will touch on issues reflected in the policy agenda Texas Gov. George W. Bush has been rolling out in recent months, from supporting charter schools and literacy programs, to improving science and math instruction, to promoting character education.

Meanwhile—consistent with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s interest in an active federal role in schools—Republican delegates this afternoon are expected to ratify a new party platform that backs away from language four years ago calling for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education.

Throughout this week, Education Week on the Web will keep readers abreast of key education developments here with regular electronic updates.

Last Friday, a convention delegate from Texas proposed adding platform language that would seek to phase out the federal Education Department over time. But members of the Republican platform subcommittee on education and youth voted down the proposal.

In addition, during deliberations by the full committee the following day, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee succeeded in restoring language—in slightly modified form—that highlighted key elements of the education agenda put forward by Gov. Bush. Sen. Frist is co-chairman of the platform committee, and details of that platform should be available later today. Gov. Bush’s agenda includes creating a new $5 billion federal literacy program and a $2.3 billion math and science education initiative. The price tags for both programs cover spending over five years.

Education, along with health care, will be the central focus for the convention this evening. A 4th grade teacher from Durham, N.C., will discuss mathematics and science education. A video will highlight the “Character Counts” program used at Carlos Rivera Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Another video will highlight an after-school enrichment program in East Palo Alto, Calif. And Michael Feinberg, a teacher at the KIPP Academy, a much-ballyhooed charter school in Houston, will talk on education, accompanied by a group of students from the school. Gov. Bush, who has visited the school and often cites it as a model, has made support for charter schools a central element of his education agenda.

Laura Bush, the governor’s wife and a former librarian and teacher, will address literacy issues in her speech. The evening will close with retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, who will discuss community and volunteer service. Gen. Powell is the chairman of America’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth, a service campaign for children and youths.

As for the rest of the week, tomorrow’s focus will be “Strength and Security With a Purpose: Safe in Our Homes and the World,” with featured speakers including Mr. Bush’s leading rival for the GOP nomination, Sen. John McCain of Arizona; former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the party’s 1996 nominee; and his wife, Elizabeth H. Dole, an early contender for the 2000 nomination.

Wednesday’s theme is “Prosperity With a Purpose: Keeping America Prosperous and Protecting Retirement Security.” Speakers include Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Richard B. Cheney, the former defense secretary and Wyoming congressman who has been tapped as Gov. Bush’s vice presidential running mate.

Finally, on Thursday night, the convention draws to a close with a focus on Gov. Bush himself, his background, and experience. It will culminate in the governor’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for president.