- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wants the U.S. government to commit $10 billion over five years to get young children in developing countries into school, saying yesterday that she and other proponents “hope that the president will take advantage” of this chance to improve global economies, health and security.

The New York Democrat joined U2 singer and activist Bono, via conference call in Ireland; Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat; Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican; and other lawmakers in Washington in introducing the Education for All Act. They said the bill would help stabilize and improve impoverished countries and function as an essential tool to combat terrorism in the long run.

“Education is an equalizing force. Today more than ever education is a national security issue,” Mrs. Lowey said.

“To win this war of ideas and to establish a lasting peace … education must play an essential role,” said Mr. Bachus, adding that “young people who are reading books aren’t building bombs.”

Mrs. Lowey and Mrs. Clinton tried unsuccessfully to get the bill passed in 2004 but are hoping the climate is right with a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Mrs. Clinton commended President Bush for working with his party to advance global health efforts, including more funding to combat AIDS in Africa.

“I give President Bush credit for working with his party to do some of the outreach that has gotten bipartisan support,” she said. With Democrats in control of Congress, Mrs. Clinton said, the time is right to go even further to improve worldwide education.

“We hope that the president will take advantage of it,” she said.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said that Mr. Bush “has worked to strengthen education for children and deliver care to those in need around the world” and that the White House is reviewing the bill.

The legislation would require the president to appoint an Education for All coordinator and create a comprehensive strategy for meeting the already established international goal of universal basic education by 2015.

The administration would coordinate support from nongovernmental groups, other governments and international organizations. Goals would include expanding access to schools, replicating successful programs, reaching the most vulnerable populations and ensuring that schools don’t promote violent extremism.

Bill sponsors said that about 77 million primary-school-age children around the world aren’t in school and that their bill follows the September 11 commission’s finding that increasing educational opportunity is key to defeating global terrorism.

Supporters realize that collecting $10 billion at a time of federal deficits and constant fights over domestic priorities is a far reach, but an essential investment.

“I say we can’t afford not to,” Bono said.

Mrs. Lowey was the only bill supporter yesterday who openly advocated pulling troops out of Iraq in order to free up more money.

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, who typically leads the charge against wasteful spending, said his boss would pose several questions to bill sponsors, including whether the bill duplicates existing efforts and which programs would be eliminated to pay for it.

“If the bill’s sponsors can’t, or won’t, answer these questions, he will likely do everything in his power to block this bill,” John Hart said.

Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, questioned how Democrats would support this international education push when “they’re constantly complaining that we don’t spend enough money domestically as it is, as if money alone were the answer to every problem.”

Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats have called for more money for domestic education efforts, including Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education reform law.

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