- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

CINCINNATI Vice President Al Gore and running mate Joseph I. Lieberman cruised through rainy southwest Ohio on two yellow school buses yesterday, pitching their education plans on Republican turf.
The vice president and the Connecticut senator visited a middle school in Miamisburg, a high school in Middletown and a technical college in Cincinnati, promising testing for new teachers, smaller class sizes and federal aid to rebuild schools.
The Democrats' lesson plan called for a surgical strike in conservative southern Ohio. In Ohio, as in Florida, the Democrats hope to make Texas Gov. George W. Bush fight for a large battleground state that is leaning Republican.
"Ohio is a very important state in this election," Mr. Lieberman told students during a boisterous pep rally in a gymnasium at Middletown High. "It can decide who the next president and vice president of the United States will be."
President Clinton carried Ohio's 21 electoral votes in 1992 and 1996, as Reform Party candidate Ross Perot polled in double digits in each election.
But Mr. Bush led Mr. Gore by 6 points in two recent Ohio polls a University of Cincinnati survey conducted before the Democratic National Convention and a Columbus Dispatch poll conducted after the convention.
The education issue like the state of Ohio is a key battleground with less than two months left in the presidential race. Mr. Bush believes his proposals to hold students accountable and to "leave no child behind" will resonate with voters.
Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman received a warm welcome as they rolled through small towns in buses decorated with banners that said "On the Road to A-plus Education." Despite the rain, many residents stood on the side of roads and highways, waving at the buses, or saluting the vice president's motorcade.
In Miamisburg, Mr. Gore conceded there "are some similarities" between his education plans and those of Mr. Bush particularly emphases on local decisions and accountability.
"The difference is [that] the plan Joe Lieberman and I are putting out starts with accountability, but it doesn't end there," Mr. Gore told 15 students and nine adults in a classroom at Anna K. Wantz Middle School.
"What we're proposing is a comprehensive approach that focuses first of all on the classroom," Mr. Gore said, ticking off his plans to hire 100,000 new teachers, provide hiring bonuses for certified teachers and to provide federal aid to help rebuild schools.
Mr. Gore said he and Mr. Lieberman "refuse to go along with a giant tax cut to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class," a tax cut Mr. Gore said "would stop our prosperity and progress" and "take away the chance we have now to use our prosperity to help lift up the schools."
Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said there is a gaping hole in Mr. Gore's education plan.
"Despite Al Gore's rhetoric, his status-quo approach on education flunks the accountability test," Mr. Bartlett said.
The vice president says students should be tested in reading and math in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades. But Mr. Bartlett said the vice president would rely on a program that tests only a sample of students. Such tests would not provide enough information to gauge a school's performance, Mr. Bartlett said.
Mr. Gore's education plans send more money and more power to Washington "without requiring real accountability," he said.
Ohio, an unusual mix of sizable cities, is a complex puzzle for Mr. Gore and for Mr. Bush. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said Mr. Gore needs to win Cuyahoga the northern Ohio county that includes Cleveland by 100,000 votes to offset Mr. Bush's strength down state in Cincinnati and in Columbus.
Last night, Mr. Gore flew from Cincinnati to Camden, N.J., for a star-studded event that was to raise $1 million for the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Gore attended the concert, featuring Cher, Michael Bolton, Sister Sledge and Luther Vandross, a day after he criticized the entertainment industry for marketing violent video games and movies to children.

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