The Bush Education Agenda

By Michelle R. Davis — November 03, 2004 3 min read

Below are highlights of President Bush’s campaign proposals on education.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: The president says the bipartisan law, one of his signature domestic achievements, is “working” as intended to improve student achievement overall and close achievement gaps for poor and minority students. He has opposed making legislative changes at this time, arguing that the administration has been able to address difficulties through regulatory fixes. Since December, the administration has issued several rounds of changes, handing states and districts new flexibility on issues, such as testing students with limited English fluency and teacher-quality mandates.

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Federal Spending: His campaign has attached price tags to some new plans, but hasn’t said specifically how much spending the president would pursue in a second term. Mr. Bush’s most recent budget request, for fiscal 2005, offered a 3 percent increase, to $57.3 billion, in Department of Education discretionary spending. The campaign often touts the big increases in education spending during Mr. Bush’s presidency. Spending has climbed sharply, though each year Congress has appropriated substantially more than the president’s request.

Teacher Quality: Would set up a $500 million Teacher Incentive Fund for states and districts that reward “effective” teachers, providing awards of $5,000 each to 100,000 teachers. Mr. Bush would create a $40 million Adjunct Teacher Corps to encourage professionals outside education to teach middle and high school part time. He would expand college-loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for highly qualified math, science, and special education teachers in high-poverty schools.

High School: Would expand assessment of high school students, with tests required each year in grades 9-11. He would require states to take part in the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress. He calls for expanding the Striving Readers initiative, which he proposed earlier this year to help struggling middle and high school readers. He wants to provide $200 million to encourage schools to use 8th grade test data to develop performance plans for entering high schoolers. Mr. Bush seeks to expand aid to make Advanced Placement courses more available to low-income students.

School Choice: Pushed hard for the first federal private school voucher program, a pilot in the District of Columbia enacted in January. Mr. Bush proposed vouchers as part of the No Child Left Behind law, but dropped the idea in the face of Democratic opposition. The law does allow students to transfer to higher-performing public schools, an idea he championed. He backs extra support for charter schools and has repeatedly requested $50 million for a Choice Incentive Fund, never funded by Congress.

Early Childhood: Proposes to refocus Head Start on school readiness and allow states to integrate Head Start programs into existing preschool preparedness efforts. He seeks to give priority funding to states that coordinate Head Start, pre-K, and child-care services, and he calls for training parents in early literacy through Head Start.

Math and Science: Has proposed a $120 million increase in fiscal 2005, to $269 million, for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program. The extra aid would be targeted at increasing high school math achievement by providing teachers with professional development. Mr. Bush wants to create a public-private partnership offering $100 million to low-income college students who study math or science.

Higher Education: Calls for increasing spending for the federal Pell Grant program. The president requested a $856 million increase in fiscal 2005, to $12.9 billion. He would create a $33 million “Enhanced Pell Grant” program, offering up to $1,000 above the maximum award ($4,050) for low-income students who take a rigorous high school curriculum. He wants a $250 million program that would strengthen the role of community colleges in workforce development, and another $125 million to encourage them to offer programs allowing high schoolers to earn college credit.

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