Schools Conference Praised--in Advance

Times Staff Writer

President Bush’s impending summit conference on education is already a success simply because it is taking place, two Republican governors--speaking on behalf of the National Governors Assn.--said Monday.

No matter what happens next week in the closed sessions, Govs. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa and Garrey E. Carruthers of New Mexico insisted, the spotlight will be on the national crisis in education. And that, they told a news conference, is what really counts.

“If we hadn’t had the President involved, we wouldn’t have had this room full of people,” said Branstad, who is chairman of the governors. “When the President says he’s interested and says he wants the governors involved, that’s a very important step forward.”

“We are now highlighting education as a national issue,” said Carruthers, who chairs the Education Commission of the States, a national association of governors and educators. “So the conference is already a success.”

The views of the Republican governors differed from those of Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, chairman of the Democratic Governors Assn., who told reporters last Friday that the governors did not want the conference to be a public-relations exercise.


Publicity Downplayed

“We don’t want it just to be a photo opportunity,” he said.

But Clinton agreed with his Republican counterparts that the governors do not intend any confrontation with President Bush, and that by calling the meeting, the President was demonstrating a commitment that could be a vital factor in efforts to improve American education.

“He has now picked up this ball and it cannot be dropped,” Clinton said of the meeting, which will take place at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Branstad told the news conference that, although some governors believe more federal money for education is necessary, “the main emphasis at the summit will not be dollars.” He added, however, that the meeting will address “what is the role of the federal government.”

Annual Progress Report

Since 1986, the National Governors Assn. has issued extensive reports on the plight of education in America, proposals for reforms and an assessment of progress. Branstad and Carruthers called the news conference Monday to issue this year’s assessment of the state of education.

In the report, the governors renewed their call for “national education goals” to guide the states and local communities. “While states and localities have primary responsibility for education,” the report said, “there is a need for a national direction for education reform and a national consensus. . . .”

“Governors must be at the center of any effort to set national goals,” the report went on.