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Bush Says It’s Time to Invent ‘New Schools for a New World’

May 22, 1991

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ President Bush today sent Congress his request for $690 million worth of education revisions, saying, ″It’s time we got down to the business of inventing new schools for a new world.″

″Our challenge now is one of reinventing the classroom,″ Bush said in remarks at the Saturn School of Tomorrow, a magnet school that he used as an example of his call to ″break the mold″ through innovative education techniques.

Bush has set six national goals for the nation’s students - including increasing the high school graduation rate to 90 percent, making U.S. students first in the world in science and math, and making every adult literate - as part of his America 2000 strategy to revamp education.

″No one says it will be easy,″ he said, ″but it’s a battle for our future that we must and will win.″

Bush spoke to an outdoor audience of several hundred people in front of the St. Paul Public Library after touring the nearby Saturn School. There were several dozen demonstrators down the street, one of whom loudly chanted ″George Bush Get Out of Here″ over a megaphone.

Bush interrupted himself and said, ″isn’t it wonderful about democracy? They have a right to speak and I think I have a right to be heard, but we’re used to this.″

The White House sent to Capitol Hill today the legislative proposals to carry out Bush’s plan, which includes $690 million in spending, much of it for $1 million seed grants to open prototype ″New American schools.″

There would be one school in each of the 435 congressional districts by 1996, plus two more for each state.

Bush also is calling for nationwide standardized testing of students, and a merit program of $100 million for 1992 that rewards schools that show progress in student academic performance.

At the Saturn School of Tomorrow, 220 students work at their own paces in individual programs they help design. The school has no grades, but the students are at an age level of grades 4 through 7.

Bush said the school may generate controversy. ″But when we say break the mold, we’ve got to give communities the power to experiment, think anew, be daring,″ he added.

″It’s time we got down to the business of inventing new schools for a new world,″ he said.

Bush’s education plan has been generally well-received, but critics say more money is needed for long-term effectiveness. They also blast his proposal to shift federal money to follow the individual student rather than the school, thus allowing parental choice in selection of schools.

The strategy encompasses four priorities: improving existing schools and making them more accountable, creating a new generation of schools for tomorrow, encouraging adult learning and enlisting community support for tougher school standards.

The Saturn School approach has students learning basic skills as part of projects of their own interest.

″We see our school as a work in progress, a school where we have as many questions as we have answers,″ school director Tom King said.

The school makes students responsible for learning, but it is not unusual for Saturn teachers to work up to 12 hours a day and take home work for the weekends, King said.

The school opened its doors in 1989 with an emphasis on individualized study plans.

For instance, 12-year-old Shay Weinblatt’s personal study plan has taken him to a cable company for work with professionals on production. Shay had his video camera ready today in the hope that Bush would grant students an interview.

Bush, who campaigned on a promise to be ″the education president,″ held an education summit with the nation’s governors in Charlottesville, Va., in September 1989. That led to six goals for the year 2000, including ridding schools of drugs and violence, raising the high school graduation rate to 90 percent and making American students the world’s best in math and science.

Bush is proposing President Achievement Scholarships for low-income students with superior records.

He said the Education Department will support alternative certification for non-education majors to become teachers, and higher pay for top teachers - those who teach core subjects, those teaching in ″dangerous″ settings and mentor teachers.

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