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Bush courts voters by pushing for vouchers in schools (oh isn't everyone shocked, hah!)
WASHINGTON -- President Bush tended to election-year business Friday, touting his efforts to boost the economy, courting Roman Catholics and exhorting government employees to work hard.
Speaking to Catholic educators, Bush announced that he will try again with his upcoming 2005 budget request to persuade Congress to go along with a national pilot program for children to attend private and religious schools at federal taxpayers’ expense. He said he will ask Congress to approve $50 million for school vouchers nationwide in the budget year that begins in October.
Bush asked for $50 million in 2003 and $75 million in 2004 for vouchers. All that has survived is a $13 million private school-choice program for low-income children in underperforming public schools in the District of Columbia.
The money is tucked in an omnibus spending package for the current year which is still awaiting final congressional approval. If approved, the money would pay for the first federally funded voucher program.
“I believe we ought to expand this opportunity further,” Bush said at an East Room celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the National Catholic Educational Association. “The initiative has a simple goal, yet it’s a profound goal: To help more parents send their children to the school that is best for them, no matter what kind of school it is.”
The issue is dear to Catholics, who run a large system of parochial schools. Bush has tried throughout his presidency to boost his support among Catholic voters, who made up a quarter of the electorate in 2000 and split their votes between Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
With the start of a re-election year, the White House has launched a strategy of steadily unveiling new initiatives, big and small, that could help him with crucial constituencies in November.
Earlier this week, for example, Bush unveiled a proposal to give illegal immigrants who have jobs in the United States temporary legal status -- devised in part to woo more Hispanics to his column.
Also, he said he would ask in his 2005 budget for increased spending on a number of education programs, and his aides announced that he would outline next week a bold new space initiative, which officials said would call for a permanent Moon-based science base and human voyages to Mars.
During an appearance Friday at the Commerce Department with women who own small businesses, Bush used an on-stage “conversation” with five success stories to promote the value of the tax cuts he had led and pushed Congress to make them permanent. He said the tax cuts are helping improve the economy.
Bush also touted the proposals, such as tort reform and reducing regulations, which he believes are necessary to keep the economy on a sure path.
The president left Friday afternoon for a weekend at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. He also is to travel to Monterrey, Mexico, for next week’s Summit of the Americas, where he will meet with officials from several countries to discuss ways to stimulate economic growth, reduce poverty and promote good governance.
By Jennifer Loven
Bush courts voters by pushing for vouchers in schools, touts tax cuts
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