Bush Unveils Education Ad; Gives 'F' To Clinton-Gore on Reform
July 7, 2008 - 7:25 PM
(CNSNews.com) - Texas Governor George W Bush on Friday unveiled the first campaign ad of the general election, touting his education reform plan while citing the Clinton-Gore Administration's failure to improve on education in the past eight years.
"Under Al Gore and Bill Clinton, national reading scores stagnated," the ad says. "America's high school students place almost dead last in international math tests. The achievement gap between poor and non-poor students remains wide."
The ads will air in advance of the Illinois presidential primary next Tuesday in six strategically-selected media markets which cover voters in areas of what campaign officials believe are three "crucial swing states" in the November election - Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer characterized the advertising purchase as "a modest buy."
Campaign officials will use the education spots to take advantage of a higher sense of political awareness in Illinois leading up to the state's presidential primary, despite the fact that both Bush and Gore have already clinched the requisite number of delegates needed for their parties' nomination.
The purpose of the ad is to illustrate the importance of education, according to Fleischer.
"Governor Bush believes that education is the key to America's future for our children, and we look forward to running directly on the education issue which is an important change for Republicans to be able to do as well as Governor Bush is doing on education."
Fleischer cited a bi-partisan Battleground survey placing Bush and Gore statistically head-to-head among voters on the education issue. According to the survey, Bush has a four-point lead over Gore in an overall rating. On education, however, Bush is down by two points. That means, according to Fleischer, that the Texas Governor has "made deep inroads on an issue which has traditionally been associated with the Democrats."
"We begin the fall campaign in an unusually strong position on education for a Republican. We think that is a reflection of the Governor's record and Al Gore's defense of the status quo," Fleischer said.
Using a US Department of Education report card produced by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) from 1996 math and 1998 reading skills tests, the Bush campaign says Clinton and Gore have failed on education reforms.
"Gore and Clinton had eight years, but they've failed," the ad says.
Fleischer downplayed the notion that Bush's ad was masquerading as an education ad touting the Governor's goals while actually attacking the Clinton-Gore education record.
"It's a positive education spot while Al Gore is masquerading as somebody who's done well on education," Fleischer responded.
The 60-second television ad touts Bush's goals for "high standards and accountability for students and teachers" by restoring local control of schools and increasing taxpayer funding, but only to schools that meet higher standards. Otherwise, under Bush's proposal, government-subsidized public schools could see students and funding leave for alternative forms of education such as private or charter schools.
Under Bush's education proposal, the Head Start program would be transformed into a reading program as part of the Department of Education
"This focuses very strongly on the Governor's proposal for education, what he seeks to do for education," Fleischer said. "We will not withhold from the American people the failure of Al Gore to improve education for America's children. That's an important central feature of the campaign for the presidency."
Fleischer said some of the greatest education gains in the nation were made in Texas with African-American fourth graders in Texas ranked first in the nation in math.
African-American and Hispanic eight graders ranked second in the nation while Texas eighth graders, as a whole, ranked fourth in the nation, according to Fleischer. "We're one of two states that have, according to the National Education Goals Panel, moved up the fastest in educational rankings."
Those advancements, campaign aides say, are because of reforms focused on elementary schools and reading. "The best way to reform education and make a long-term investment in our nation's future is through educating young children starting at the beginning," Fleischer said.
Fleischer noted that education, as a crucial concern among women voters, will be a "centerpiece" of the Bush campaign, providing insight into what could be part of the campaign's overall strategy to attract more voters.
Bush wants to increasing current education spending levels by $5.5 billion between 2002 and 2006 targeted toward a variety of programs such as the Excellence in Education award, character education, the Charter School Homestead Fund, education savings accounts, and after-school programs. Under his proposal, states would also receive federal assistance for administering the NAEP tests.
"I think it's safe to say that when it comes to education, Governor Bush is a different kind of Republican. He is sending a different message and setting a different tone than we have heard come of Washington recently," Fleischer said.
Bush's brother, Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush, was dealt a political setback earlier this week when a state judge tossed out his education reform program that had already taken effect with 53 students enrolled. Governor Jeb Bush is expected to appeal the ruling.
In the ruling on Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge L Ralph Smith barred Florida from expanding its school voucher program any further, but permitted the students currently using vouchers to continue to do so through the end of the school year.
The Florida program, passed in June 1999, uses public tax dollars to provide private school scholarships to students in public schools that fail standardized tests. Opponents, including teachers' unions and the American Civil Liberties Union, say the voucher plan will drain money away from government schools that need it most.
The Florida education reform plan and that which the Texas governor is proposing nationally are "fairly similar in that both are aimed at providing a voucher in situations where a child is left in a failing school," Bush spokesperson Mindy Tucker told CNSNews.com.
"This is the first ad of the Fall campaign, and we think it's never too early to talk about the importance of education," Fleischer added.