Thursday, October 05, 2000

Bush outlines education plan in Ohio appearance

He says Gore wants to expand government

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — George W. Bush brought his post-debate tour to this Republican stronghold Wednesday, where he pitched his ideas about education, Social Security and the difference between himself and Al Gore.

        “I'll tell you the difference between me and my worthy opponent,” Mr. Bush told an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 in the Reynoldsburg High School gymnasium.

        “He wants an expansion of government,” the GOP presidential nominee said, “the likes of which hasn't been seen since the days of Lyndon Baines Johnson.”

        Mr. Bush rejected the criticism he received from Mr. Gore in Tuesday night's debate in Boston on his plan for using part of the projected federal budget surplus for across-the-board tax cuts and a $1 trillion plan in which people could invest a portion of their Social Security tax in a private investment account.

        “That 1 trillion can turn into 3 trillion with good investments,” Mr. Bush said. "What bothers them in the federal government is the idea of you having control of your own money instead of them.”

        He also touted his own tax-cut plan, saying Mr. Gore's “targeted tax cuts” would leave 50 million Americans without tax relief.

        Mr. Bush also recalled his meeting last month in Cincinnati with the Cross family of North Bend, whom he said would save $1,903 under his tax-cut plan.

        “But under the Gore plan, the Crosses would get nothing,” Mr. Bush said.

        The focus of Wednesday night's visit to Reynoldsburg was education.

        “I want you to know I don't want to be the federal superintendent of schools. I don't want to be the national school principal,” he said.

        Packed into the hot high school gymnasium, residents of the heavily Republican Columbus suburb listened to Mr. Bush outline his education plans and field a few questions from the audience.

        Mr. Bush found just the kind of audience his campaign has been taking aim at — middle-class parents concerned about education; and he did it in a community where Democratic voters are few and far between. The theme Wednesday night was “putting parents back in charge.”

        Government, Mr. Bush said, “can't solve all the problems” of American schools, “but it can act as a partner, an ally.”

        Mr. Bush said helping schools maintain discipline and a safe environment would be a high priority in his administration.

        “I'm going to insist that any school that accepts federal money can show that it is a safe place for children to learn,” Mr. Bush said.

        He said he would ask Congress for a “teacher protection act” that would protect teachers, principals and school administrators from being sued “if rules of discipline are reasonably enforced.”

        Mr. Bush touted his plan to expand the federal “education savings accounts” to raise the annual contribution limit from $500 to $5,000 and allow funds to be withdrawn tax-free to pay for educational expenses, kindergarten through college.

        “I like the idea that parents should have more control and responsibility over their kids' schooling,” said Doris Gruener, parent of two junior and senior high students in Reynoldsburg. “That's something the government can't do.”

        Mr. Bush started the day in Boston and went on to a rally with supporters in Philadelphia and then on to Ohio, a critical state for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

        No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. The Buckeye State's 21 electoral votes went to Bill Clinton in the last two presidential elections.

        The Bush-Cheney campaign believes it is ahead in Ohio, although the race is close. Last Month, the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll had Mr. Bush up by 4 percentage points over Mr. Gore in Ohio, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

        Mr. Gore, too, headed straight to Ohio after Tuesday night's debate, holding rallies in Youngstown and Warren, two Democratic strongholds.


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