Federal File

June 18, 2003 1 min read

He’ll Be Back-ing Bush

Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s special guest at the Department of Education’s June 6 After-School Summit needed, as they say in showbiz, no introduction. He got one anyway.

“Let me let you hear from the Terminator,” Mr. Paige said, referring, of course, to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Austrian-born action hero-turned-child-advocate (turned-governor?) stepped up to the lectern at a Washington hotel press briefing on the summit.

“We talked about what is the definition of a comprehensive after-school program,” he said, tossing out terms such as “student-performance indicators” and evidencing a strong grasp of the issue.

Last year, Mr. Schwarzenegger led the successful drive for a ballot initiative that dedicates as much as $550 million a year for California before- and after-school programs. That political foray has fueled speculation that the Republican may seek the California governorship. He deflected such questions.

“I always believe it is important to stay on message, and right now, the message is after-school programs,” he added.

But only weeks earlier, Mr. Schwarzenegger had veered off the Bush administration’s message on 21st Century Community Learning Centers. In May, the actor testified before a House committee against Mr. Bush’s proposal to cut the program’s funding by 40 percent.

He was back on the Bush track in early June, however. Both Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Paige said the discussion at the After-School Summit was less about budget disagreements and more about defining good after-school programs.

Mr. Paige did allude to a controversial recent study that suggested the learning-centers program had done little to raise academic achievement. “We want to fund what works,” he said.

After waiting for Mr. Schwarzenegger to terminate an interview with an Austrian TV crew with a sudden interest in the nuances of American schooling, Education Week was able to buttonhole him for a few moments. He said he thought Mr. Paige had learned a lot about the importance of such programs.

“We all want, by the year 2010,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, “to have all schools have after-school programs.”

—Mark Walsh