Bush Ready to Unveil 'Blueprint' for Education Reform

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President George W. Bush said Tuesday he is sending a "series of specific proposals" to Congress, his "blueprint" for education reform in America. The initiatives will come from Washington, but Bush thinks local and state education officials should have enough latitude to enact the changes.

Bush set this summer as a deadline for the legislation to be passed so local school officials can make the changes in time for the beginning of the next school year. But now it's up to Congress.

"We've got one thing in mind: an education system that's responsive to the children, an education system that educates every child, one that's based upon sound, fundamental curriculum, one that starts teaching children to read early in life, one that heralds our teachers and makes sure they've got the necessary tools to teach, but one that says every child can learn and in this great land called America, no child will be left behind," the President said at the White House.

Bush outlined "four basic commitments" for real education reform in America.

Children must be tested every year in reading and math, every single year. I oppose a national test designed here in Washington, D.C. because I know it would undermine local control of schools and undermine state curricula. But states should test each student each year. Without yearly testing, we don't know who is falling behind and who needs help. Without yearly testing, too often we don't find failure until it is too late to fix," Bush said.

The "agents of school reform", the President believes, "must be schools and school districts, not bureaucracies. Teachers and principals and local and state leaders must have the responsibility to succeed and the flexibility to innovate. One size does not fit all when it come to educating children in America."

Bush thinks federal tax dollars on education should be spent on "things that work."

"Too often we have spent without regard for results, without judging success or failure from year to year," he said. Bush has no desire to dismantle the federal role in education, but insisted "change will not come by adding a few new federal programs to the old. We need real reform."

And reform, to Bush, means increasing the amount of local control in the schools.

"I trust local folks to chart the path to excellence. But educational excellence for all is a national issue and, as of this moment, is a presidential priority," said Bush.

Hinting at his support for school vouchers, Bush said, "When schools do not teach and will not change, parents and students must have other meaningful options. And when children and teenagers go to school afraid of being threatened or attacked or worse, our society must make it clear that it's the ultimate betrayal of adult responsibility.

"Parents and children who have only bad options must eventually get good options, if we're to succeed all across the country," Bush said.

Before announcing his education reform plan, the president held a morning briefing with a group of lawmakers at the White House.