WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is sharpening his focus on teacher training as he helps raise money in Minnesota for a Democrat-turned-Republican seeking to oust Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Two months ago, Bush signed into law a wide-ranging education bill that requires states to ensure by 2005 that all teachers are qualified to instruct in their subject area.
On Monday, at Eden Prairie High School near Minneapolis, Bush was outlining steps he would take to achieve that, including two proposals he offered last year but that lawmakers killed during months of negotiations.
One was a $400 tax deduction to compensate teachers for out-of-pocket classroom expenses; the other would expand student loan forgiveness to as much as $17,500 for math, science and special education teachers who commit to teach in "high-need" schools for five years.
Bush also is allocating $2.9 billion this budget year and proposing the same for next year to help states recruit and train teachers and principals.
"The effectiveness of all education reform eventually comes down to a good teacher in a classroom," the president said in his weekly radio address Saturday. "My administration has set a great goal for our public schools: a quality teacher in every classroom."
But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate education committee, said Bush's budget proposal "cuts the very programs that recruit new teachers, improve teacher quality and reduce class size." Bush and Kennedy, D-Mass., had toured several states to celebrate the education bill signing in January, and Bush had boasted for weeks of his new alliance with the liberal senator.
On Monday, it was former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman flying with Bush on Air Force One. Coleman is challenging Democrat Wellstone, one of 10 senators to vote against Bush's education bill. Wellstone, who once promised to serve only two terms, is seeking a third.
Recent polls found voters split evenly between Coleman and Wellstone.
Bush's appearance was expected to raise $1 million for Coleman, the Minnesota Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Coleman was a Democrat until 1996. He switched parties and won the GOP 1998 gubernatorial nomination but lost to Jesse Ventura of the Reform Party.
Coleman kept his political career alive by chairing Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, and the White House urged him to run for the Senate. Former President George Bush headlined a fund-raiser for him in October.
In his sixth fund-raiser this year, the current president was again working to recapture the Senate for Republicans. Last week he raised money for his former presidential rival, Elizabeth Dole, who is running for the Senate in North Carolina.
On the eve of the first primary of the election season, the White House also was keeping close tabs on California, where its choice, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, is trailing Bill Simon for the GOP nomination.
It is one of several races in which the administration has taken the unusual step of injecting itself into campaigns before Republican voters nominate a candidate.
Preparing for a possible upset Tuesday, Bush aides contacted Simon's camp in recent days, Simon said. "The president will, of course, support whoever the party nominates," White House spokesman Taylor Gross said.
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