(CNSNews.com) - On the one-year anniversary of President Bush's signature education reform plan, Democrats Wednesday accused Bush of under-funding the No Child Left Behind Act and blasted him for proposing a dividend tax cut.
The president, meanwhile, was hailing the legislation as "the most meaningful education reform probably ever" and "a legislative victory on behalf of the children of America."
Senators Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) accused Bush of trying to destroy public education, with Clinton describing Bush's philosophy as one in which "there's no point in continuing to put money into public education."
"Let's just wash our hands of it right now and go straight to vouchers. Let's privatize education," she said, mocking the president.
Dodd added that the Bush administration "is about destroying public education. It's about guaranteeing in the future that we're going to have nothing but vouchers for private, parochial schools."
Clinton vowed that Democrats, conversely, would not give up on the funding needs of the No Child Left Behind Act.
"More importantly, we're not giving up on public schools, and we're not giving up on our children, and anybody who thinks we are is in for a fight," said Clinton, speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference.
"As soon as he signed the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush walked away from his job of improving our schools," charged Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues and of liberal interest groups like the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National School Boards Association.
"His budget for this fiscal year had the smallest increase for education since 1996," said Harkin. "It eliminated funding for rural schools, school counselors and dropout prevention ... cut funding for the No Child Left Behind Act by $90 million; and you can bet his budget for next fiscal year won't do any better."
In criticizing Bush's proposed dividend tax cut, Dodd acknowledged that dividend income is double-taxed, both on the corporate and individual ends, but said he opposes the tax cut because it would hurt, not help, the economy.
It's a bad idea, he said, to "take some $600 billion off the table to provide a tax cut for 10 percent of the beneficiaries while simultaneously we're talking about a war with Iraq and devastating problems at home, not to mention staggering state budgets," and problems in education, transportation, environment and health care.
During a White House ceremony, Bush defended the education plan.
"The main reservations we've heard in the year since we passed the reform have come from some ... who say the testing requirement is an unfunded mandate on the states," said Bush. "Well, that's not true. We put up $387 million to provide for testing, to pay for the testing in this year's budget. I intend to ask for the same amount next year."
An education think tank with close ties to the Bush administration defended the level of funding for No Child Left Behind. "Voters believe that standards and accountability are far more important to improving public education than increased funding," said Marc Lampkin, executive director of Americans for Better Education. Lampkin pointed to the results of a new survey commissioned by ABE.
"The days of simply throwing money at the problem are over," said Lampkin.
Clinton, Dodd and Harkin were joined at Wednesday's Democratic news conference by Senators Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), and Jack Reed (R.I.), along with Independent Jim Jeffords (Vt.), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Fairfax County, Va., school superintendent, Daniel A. Domenech.
Dodd, Harkin and Jeffords said they would oppose a bill that cuts dividend taxes.
"Without hesitation, I'd say I will oppose it," said Jeffords.
"This ought to be defeated soundly in my view," said Dodd.
Read President Bush's Statement
See Earlier Stories:
Education Battle Focuses on Money, Testing Standards
Senate Passes Education Bill
'No Child Left Behind Act' Signals Far-Reaching Changes for Schools
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