- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — President Bush said yesterday that high schools, with federal help, must get back to basics by ensuring that students have mastered essential skills to prepare them for college or the job market.

The country’s high schools need to “raise the bar” with the goal of “educating children that have got the capacity to take over the jobs of the 21st century,” said Mr. Bush, appearing at a high school in West Virginia, where he is in a close race for the state’s five electoral votes.

Mr. Bush promoted his initiatives that provide hundreds of millions of additional federal dollars this year so that schools can give extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in reading and math.

“There needs to be a rigorous focus on English and math and science,” Mr. Bush said before a banner that read, “Better Education, Better Jobs.”

Mr. Bush has been competitive on the issue of education since the 2000 campaign, when his proposals helped him win support from female voters. But he and Democratic rival John Kerry are running close nationally on the question of who would do a better job on education, with Mr. Kerry ahead in some polls and the two closely matched in others.

“Thirty percent of high school students aren’t finishing high school, but this president is failing to enforce the provisions of his own education law that address this crisis,” said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer.

Democrats view Mr. Bush as being vulnerable on education, and both campaigns are focused on the issue.

As he has for the past two days, Mr. Bush defended the education-reform law called No Child Left Behind, which requires federally funded school systems to demonstrate that their students can meet a set of learning standards.

“I have seen incredible progress” and “my job as president is to continue to challenge,” Mr. Bush told an audience of educators and state officials Wednesday at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

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