- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday announced his U.S. Senate campaign’s education platform by criticizing the federal government’s implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and President Bush’s recommendation of cutting financial aid for low-income college students.

Mr. Steele, a Republican, said the No Child Left Behind Act “has fallen short of expectations,” saying teachers are forced to “teach to the test” so students can keep up with standards intended to make low-performing schools more accountable.

“You neglect teaching to the student,” he said.

Mr. Bush signed the act into law in 2002.

The Senate candidate chided the president by name when he mentioned Perkins loans, which provide low-interest loans to low-income college students. Maryland receives almost $19 million in Perkins loans funding, he said.

“It was wrong for President Bush to call for eliminating the program,” Mr. Steele said.

Speaking to a group of about a dozen people at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Mr. Steele said the U.S. education system is “fundamentally unequal,” describing it as “cumbersome,” “often myopic” and “immoral.”

“There is an inherent disparity in our education system that threatens the spirit of the Brown decision,” he said, issuing his comments on the 52nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which desegregated public schools.

Mr. Steele’s education criticisms echo those of the leading Democratic candidates in the Senate race.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore, has said No Child Left Behind needs to be fully funded.

Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and National Association for Advancement of Colored People president, has said there are “major gaps” between the demands on public schools and the resources available to them.

Maryland Democratic officials, who have attacked Mr. Steele for holding fundraisers with Mr. Bush and other national Republicans, yesterday called his criticisms of the president “hollow.”

State Democratic Party spokesman Arthur Harris said the Steele campaign is trying to “pick out the worst parts of the Republican agenda and criticize them, but actions speak louder than words.”

Mr. Harris said Mr. Steele did nothing to stop Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. from cutting the state budget in his first three years in office, which the Democratic Party said caused universities to raise tuition 37 percent over the last four years.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican who is seeking re-election, supported a tuition freeze this year.

In March, an internal Democratic strategy paper said Democrats should link Mr. Steele to Mr. Bush and national Republicans to turn him “into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African-American candidate.”

The report said Mr. Steele, who is black, is a “unique threat,” in part because of his appeal to black voters.

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