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Nation’s Governors Invited by Bush to ‘Education Summit’

From Associated Press

President Bush, in a speech overshadowed by the reported execution of an American hostage in Lebanon, today summoned state governors to a September “education summit” to search for ways to improve the performance of the nation’s schools.

Bush tendered the invitation to the Sept. 27-28 meeting in a speech at the National Governors’ Assn. summer meeting here, then cut short a planned two-day trip to return to Washington.

In his remarks to the governors, Bush predicted that the education summit will be “an historic meeting,” only the third time in history that a President has convened a gathering of the governors.

Pilot Funds Provided

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The Education Department has been providing pilot funds for school districts trying school reforms embraced by the governors’ association.

In his speech, Bush did not offer any new financial aid to education, saying only that “federal dollars should be targeted to those most in need.” He reiterated support of “choice for parents” in where they want to send their children to school.

At the outset, Bush shook hands with Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democrat he vanquished in a bitter contest for the presidency last fall.

Dukakis told reporters that he likes the Bush approach to the environment and child care. But Dukakis, who has had budget problems in his state, accused the Administration of resorting to “smoke and mirrors” on the federal budget deficit. He called the deficit “the central issue facing (the states), and the time to deal with the problem is right now.”

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Bush fielded several questions from the governors before leaving.

Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, a Democrat, after a long preamble about the need to educate a better work force, finished by telling Bush, “What I’m trying to say, Mr. President, is ‘Send money.’ ”

Bush laughed and replied that he hoped the education summit will afford an opportunity “to take a considerable amount of time to discuss these kinds of issues.”

The President also enlisted the governors’ help in combatting other social problems--from crime to drug abuse to welfare dependency--that he portrayed as undermining America’s progress.

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He said he shares with the chief executives of the 50 states “common challenges and responsibilities.”

“To cure our nation of illiteracy, drug abuse and crime, we must act in tandem, President with governor and governor with mayor, up and down the line,” he said. “In short we must find our collective will as a nation.

“Today we do not meet in a spirit of immediate crisis. The nation is sound. But the decline of our educational system, the threat of crime and drugs, the economic dependency of so many--these problems threaten to endanger the very leadership position of America in the next century.

” . . . A nation in which a half of our youth is ignorant of geography, in which drugs are rampant, in which a substantial proportion of the population knows little hope--such a nation will not long remain competitive.

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‘National Security’

“Improving our schools, driving out drugs and bringing hope and opportunity to those who need it most--these are issues of our national well-being, even our national security.”

Bush promised during last year’s campaign to convene an education summit and discussed it with the governors’ executive committee at the White House in May.

Only twice before have the nation’s governors met en masse with the President on an issue of vital national importance, Bush said. The first was a conference on conservation called by Theodore Roosevelt and the second a meeting convened by Franklin D. Roosevelt on how to “stem the financial crisis of the Great Depression,” Bush said.

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