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Bush Presents New Proposal To Increase Teacher Training

By Kenneth J. Cooper
THE WASHINGTON POST -- MILWAUKEE

Texas Gov. George W. Bush Thursday proposed to improve the quality of the nation’s teachers, which polls show to be a big issue with voters concerned about education, by calling for nearly $3 billion to recruit and train teachers and give them a tax break.

Bush’s new proposals on teacher quality shored up the Republican presidential candidate’s stance on an education issue that Vice President Gore has addressed with a more elaborate and costlier set of plans to provide college scholarships, incentive pay and salaries for teachers. Previously, Bush has supported block grants that states could use for a variety of training programs for teachers already in the classroom.

Although members of teachers unions constitute a core constituency of the Democratic Party, and Republicans regularly bash them, Bush seemed to go out of his way Thursday to convey in his words and new proposals respect for teachers and an appreciation of their central role in improving public schools.

The leader of Houston’s teachers union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, met the Texas governor at a middle school here and joined him in a roundtable discussion of education issues led by a conservative talk show host and broadcast on a local radio station.

“Education reform is empty if it does not take account of the needs of educators,” Bush said. “Teachers are not the object of education reform, they are the engine of education reform. They have a high calling, and we must respect it.”

The biggest proposal Bush offered was a $2 billion increase over five years in federal spending to recruit and train teachers, particularly in the academic subjects that they teach rather than instructional methods. The additional $400 million a year would more than double the amount that the government currently dedicates solely to teacher training, $335 million.