- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. President Bush yesterday derided testing standards for new teachers, which he said are "so low that all you have to do is answer half the questions and you're in."
In a speech to 4,000 teachers, students and family members at a high school in an affluent Minneapolis suburb, the president said the current system "doesn't make sense to me."
"And, you know, it doesn't make sense to good teachers. Teachers want their profession to have the highest of high standards," he said.
"If we want to have a teaching profession that is held in high regard, we must have confidence in the teacher colleges and those coming into the teacher ranks that they can do the job expected of them.
"We owe it to the parents. And, most of all, we owe it to the students."
While Mr. Bush two months ago signed into law a wide-ranging education bill that requires states to ensure by 2005 that teachers are qualified to teach their subject, he hit the road yesterday to push several issues left out of the legislation.
The president wants to give a $400 tax deduction to compensate teachers for their out-of-pocket classroom expenses.
"Look, if a business person can take somebody out to lunch and deduct it, teachers ought to be allowed to deduct the supplies they purchase for their classrooms," he said to applause from teachers.
Mr. Bush also wants the federal government to offer as much as $17,500 to reimburse student loans for math, science and special-education teachers who spend five years in "low-income neighborhoods."
"Right now our government forgives up to $5,000 in student loans. If someone is willing to teach math, science or special ed in a school that is having trouble recruiting teachers, then we ought to forgive up to $17,500 in student loans," Mr. Bush said.
The president told teachers the newly signed legislation will give them the tools to establish and maintain control of their students.
"Many teachers are wary of imposing discipline, because they might be sued. Somebody might file a lawsuit against them.
"Well, because of what we call the teacher protection law, teachers and principals and other school professionals can take reasonable actions to maintain order and discipline in the classroom without the fear of being hauled into court," he said to applause mostly from teachers and parents.
Mr. Bush also offered some words of wisdom to the teen-age students.
"Look, you probably have already forgotten the isosceles triangle or photosynthesis," he said, drawing laughter. "But hopefully you did learn how to try hard and how to work hard, and how to take pride in your work, exactly what your teachers are teaching you."
Making a pitch for his volunteer program, Mr. Bush heralded local resident Willard Gove, an 83-year-old World War II veteran and full-time volunteer. The life-long Democrat a full-time volunteer is helping raise money to build two children's soccer fields and reads newspapers over the radio for the blind.
Mr. Bush was met at the airport by Gov. Jesse Ventura, wearing a ski hat and a black overcoat with a dangling belt.
Later yesterday, the president attended a fund-raiser for Norm Coleman, a former Democratic mayor of St. Paul, Minn., who now is a Republican. Mr. Coleman is challenging Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, one of 10 senators who voted against Mr. Bush's education bill.
The event was expected to raise $2 million $1.2 million of it for Mr. Coleman, the rest for the state party.

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