COLUMN: Democrats urge Bush to deal with economy

Two of my favorite issues are education and the economy. This past weekend, President George W. Bush described education as "the great civil rights issue of our time" and outlined his agenda for change. At the same time, in their radio address, Democrats criticized the president's handling of the economy.

While emphasizing their encouragement for his leadership of the war in Afghanistan and his reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Democrats say Bush and congressional Republicans should do more to help those unemployed following the attacks.

The discussion about the economy has led to some harsh partisan arguments in Washington lately. Because the nation is in a recession, the issue will be key in November's election in which control of both houses of Congress is up for grabs. Bush chose to concentrate on a new bipartisan success and the broad changes to federal education laws in his Saturday address. He said the challenge is for every child in America to have a fair chance at succeeding in life.

The president said the newly authorized education changes, which both Republicans and Democrats supported, underlines reading as the first step to early learning, ensuring educators are correctly skilled and establishing a system of responsibility to make sure children obtain the education they need. Bush said there is also a lot more that needs to be accomplished.

The president plans to increase aid to disadvantaged children in the next budget. This $1 billion in increased funding is added on to the hike made in last year's budget. This funding will go directly to the federal program titled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Many teachers and legislators, particularly Democrats, were displeased that more IDEA financial support was not part of the $26.5 billion education changes accepted by Congress and signed into law by Bush just recently. The large price of supplying education to children with disabilities is draining school budgets all over the nation.

In their weekly radio address, Democrats reiterated that they back Bush's actions in the battle versus terrorism but blame the president for not jump-starting the economy to help the 8 million Americans out of work. The Democrats said they stand behind the working men and women of the United States who are having a difficult time making ends meet. These comments came as the Democratic National Committee convened for its winter conference on agendas for the 2004 presidential election.

With hope, President Bush will let the American public know what he plans to do to jump-start the economy when he gives the State of the Union address. I also hope he has some good ideas about a balanced budget. I support a good federal education program in the United States but I also think other issues have priority too, like protecting the elderly and conserving our natural resources.

The No. 1 priority right now should be getting new jobs for the recently unemployed so they can support their families. The economy won't become better until the work force is back in full force.

Write to Courtney at


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