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Clinton Pushes His Education Agenda

October 21, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Trying to divert attention from Congress’ opposition to his education plan, President Clinton read a book with a little girl Tuesday to show that volunteer tutoring called for under the plan is working.

Congress, however, was unmoved. ``It’s one of the sillier things I’ve heard of,″ Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee who favors a GOP-crafted teacher preparation program, said of Clinton’s volunteer effort.

``You don’t need a new bureaucracy,″ Goodling said. ``It’s an affront to the millions of people who have been volunteering in reading programs long before William Clinton came to Washington, D.C.″

Tuesday’s reading event was one of several Clinton was holding this week to push his education agenda, which includes linking more schools to the Internet and establishing uniform tests for measuring reading and math skills of fourth- and eighth-graders.

Before an audience of college presidents, students and parents in the White House’s East Room, Clinton sat beside Victoria Adeniji, a second-grader at Garrison Elementary School here, to join her in reading ``The Carrot Seed.″

Victoria pronounced her words carefully as she and Clinton told the story of a little boy who ignored naysayers to help a seed grow into a huge carrot. Her tutor, Georgetown University student Eric Castillo, watched proudly.

``Instead of the carrot, think about Victoria. Think about a million Victorias,″ Clinton said. ``We first have to plant the seed and then we have to tell the doubters it will grow.″

The White House hoped the reading demonstration would build support for Clinton’s youth literacy drive, which is poised to become a casualty of the fight over the testing standards.

The literacy program, ``America Reads,″ would send out thousands of college students as tutors to help children read on their own by age 8. About 800 colleges have signed on with the program, Clinton said, and demand among students for the work-study slots far exceeds the supply. If the program went unfunded, Clinton said, ``It would be a shame.″

``It gives children a good education, and it gives young people the chance to serve,″ Clinton said. ``We have to have a bipartisan commitment to education that transcends politics. We have to have a follow-through on the bipartisan commitment to fund America Reads to its full potential.″

Goodling has held up any work on the literacy proposal until the dispute over the national tests is resolved. He has put forth an alternative, the Reading Excellence Act, which requires that teachers have more access to the latest educational techniques to improve the quality of what children learn.

``Instead of spending $100 million for one more test, why don’t we make sure children are reading ready by the time they reach first grade?″ Goodling said. ``You can’t have (volunteers) over here and the teacher over there and somehow hope that the twain shall meet.″

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