President Bush visits nation's first public school after signing education bill
By Leslie Miller, Associated Press, 01/08/02
BOSTON -- A who's who of state Republicans, and even some Democrats, joined the proud and excited students of Boston Latin School Tuesday in welcoming President Bush to Massachusetts just hours after he signed a sweeping education reform bill in Hamilton, Ohio.
The president was on a one-day tour to the home states of some of the congressmen who helped work out a compromise bill that requires reading and math tests and sets higher teacher standards as part of its goal to narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor students.
U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a key player in forging the bill, introduced Bush to about 700 students, educators, politicians and state employees crammed into the gym of the nation's oldest public school.
"I told the folks in the coffee shop in Crawford, Texas, that Ted Kennedy was all right," Bush said. "They almost fell off."
U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif, also traveled with the president on the last leg of the trip that started in Ohio and made a stopover in New Hampshire.
The bipartisanship is what impressed Jin Bin Liu, a ninth-grader on the student newspaper. He said he'd use that angle as the lead on his story about the visit.
"He seemed to emphasize how it got passed, how they worked together," Liu said.
Some students were more skeptical, however.
Erin George, who also works for the school newspaper, said it was "really awesome" to see the president, but she was less excited about the new law.
"They called it bipartisan but there are a lot of Republican add-ons that don't have a lot to do with education," she said.
George said honor students, choir members, the jazz band, yearbook staff, school newspaper reporters and members of the Young Republican Club were allowed to hear the president. "There aren't any Young Democrats," she said.
Rabbi Rachmiel Liberman, executive director of the Lubavitch Congregation in Brookline, said Bush delivered a good speech, but there were some aspects of the law he did not like.
"I would have liked to see a voucher program," he said. Vouchers were excluded from the bill to win Democratic support.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, said Republicans aren't bipartisan enough.
The GOP hasn't been willing to compromise on an economic stimulus bill, he said.
"We need bipartisanship, I'm all for it," Kerry said. "Bipartisanship should not be selective. It's got to be applied across the board."
Kennedy, whose father and grandfather graduated from Boston Latin, presented Bush with a replica of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by five Boston Latin graduates.
"There's a culture here of achievement," said headmaster Cornelia Kelley. The school accepts only the best and brightest students from the city.