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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Rod Paige
Secretary of Education

     In Focus: Education

September 9, 2003

Rod Paige
I am thankful for this opportunity I always enjoy engaging in discussions with citizens about our education system. The bottom line is that the President knows we must improve our education system in order to improve our nation. We are in a very competitive situation and many nations are speeding in terms of development including improving their education services. We as a nation cannot be left behind. It is important for our children's futures that they can compete with their international neighbors. The President is trying to make life better for us as citizens and especially our children.

Stephen, from Scottsville, KY writes:
What is your opinion on the NCLB act No Child Left Behind and do you believe it is possible for all school systems to follow?

Rod Paige
Yes. I strongly believe that it is possible for all school systems in America to follow the guidelines of NCLB. It is simple in terms of its principles. Schools must be accountable. The second point flexibility and local control people at the local level should make decisions. Third parents should have options for their children. Last NCLB makes sure that teaching methods are based on science. This is not complicated. All schools can do this. It is going to require hard work and it is going to require us to do things differently but all schools can do it.

Abigail, from Iowa writes:
I thank you in advance for bearing with me on my topic here. It does happen to be one that crosses my mind every day, seeming as I am a college student. Tuition prices keep rising, while class hours stay the same, meaning I can only work so many hours per day and still keep the A. Students like myself are driving themselves very quickly into debt. Is this administration doing anything to keep education affordable? Thanks for the consideration.

Rod Paige
I really empathize with your concern and I can feel the passion in your question. Is the administration doing anything to keep education affordable? Absolutely. Let us talk about the affordability of higher education... Tuition rates at university and colleges are set by the governing structures by those universities and colleges that are outside the government. The federal government does not play a big role in those determinations. The President is a champion for providing increased funding for worthy and eligible students to attend universities and colleges of their choice. For example, the Pell grant program. Pell grant funding is up to $12.7 billion that is a 45% increase over 2001 funding. Student aid is up by 36% over when the President first took office. SO the President is very aggressive in protecting America’s education investment and that is investing in our future leaders who are going to universities and colleges now.

johnny, from scranton, pennsylvania writes:
i'm ten years old. my teacher has asked us about our goals for the year. what are your goals for america's schools this year?

Rod Paige
Johnny’s ten years old and I congratulate you for being involved in education policy at a young age. Our goal for America’s schools this year is lots of success in bringing their school systems in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. To increase the number of highly qualified teachers in schools. Our goal includes movement towards assuring that our teaching methods are based on science and that they work. These goals represent methods that we know to be our ultimate goal and that is that students like Johnny score better on national and state mandated exams.

Tony, from Houston,Tx writes:
Dr. Paige, I have just graduated this past year from E.L. Furr High School in HISD, your old district. I have met you once at a campaign party hosted and the honorable Shadwicks resident. My question for you is what do you see as the similarities between the problems found in our nations schools and and the problems found in HISD before you were district superintendant?

Rod Paige
Thank you for your question Tony. It is good to talk with someone from my hometown. Congratulations for graduating from E.L. Furr High school and I hope that you plan to attend college. There are a lot of similarities in the problems found in our nation’s schools and HISD. Problems such as finding enough highly qualified teachers, assuring that the schools are safe environments for our students and teachers, building adequate public support for school systems, parental involvement and the complexity of the policy development. In Houston it was the school board and the Texas legislature. In Washington it is the Congress. In both cases it is more political than I would like for it to be. I wish that education could be shielded from the political process. I know that is just a pipe dream but that is what I wish.

Teresa, from Little Rock, AR writes:
Dr. Paige, What national efforts, suggestions, or policy will your office make to help children and teachers regarding the major problem with bullying in our public schools? Thank you.

Rod Paige
Thank you for your question Teresa. You have hit upon a very important issue. When I was superintendent in Houston our number one core value was safety above all else. I feel it is imperative for us to provide a safe environment for students. We have taken action to assist schools in this important matter. We have created a division in the department called the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. We have charged them with the responsibilities of making schools safe and bullying is one of those issues. We have held conferences on this issue; we have offered training to teachers and have published literature on the issue of bullying. I suggest that if you find yourself in a position where you are bullied disengage immediately and call the situation to the attention of a responsible school administrator.

Tony, from Ellwood writes:
Secretary Paige, A candidate for President recently said, ...the No Child Left Behind Act has been a disaster for students, parents and teachers across the country. The president promised better schools. Instead, he has delivered more paperwork, lower standards and higher property taxes as state and local governments scramble to comply with this unfounded mandate. How would you respond?

Rod Paige
Tony we live in the United States of America and we are privileged to live here. It is a wonderful country. One thing we know about is that we can expect each that candidates will make ridiculous charges and promises that we know that they are not going to keep. Even with that admonition. This is one of the most ridiculous charges I have heard. NCLB is the best thing that has happened to America’s schools since 1965. This candidate is seems to satisfied with the schools the way they are and supports the status quo and is supported by the Washington based union establishment. Let me encourage you to go to our website Please draw your own conclusions and do not get your information from presidential candidates unless it is from President George W. Bush.

Aaron, from Ziegler writes:
keep up the good work Mr. President Bush you are the best president since Lincoln you sure know your stuff P.S. get Saddam

Rod Paige
Aaron this is a great statement. We are going to get Saddam.

Roberta, from Idaho writes:
Mr. Secretary, Thank you for your service. What's the one piece of advice you often find yourself giving to teachers and parents?

Rod Paige
Thank you Roberta for your question. Let me begin by saying to teachers, Thank you for your commitment to America's children. I want to tell parents that we need your help. You are a child's first teacher. I saw to all of America that the President wants our nation to be better. There are many things we must do in order to be better and stronger but one thing we must do is be better in education. The President is dedicated to improving education for our young Americans who are our countries future.

chris, from texas writes:
I have just one simple question. what is Rod Paige's party?

Rod Paige
I am a proud member of the Republican party.

Maxine, from Alexandria.Va writes:
Dear President Bush This is but a question really But a Thank You ,to you and the team of very fine people you have put together....We are in very hard times and it is sad that some many American's are not pulling together .....that we have forgotten what this Nation so about and have lost the ability to know right from wrong,,,, God Bless you and the wonderful people working with you ,who work hard each day to protect America and the people of America. This is the question part ....How can our Justice use Europian laws has a guide line to change our laws? We are not governd by Europian law but by the laws of the united states of America....this worries me that this could happen....and what can we do about this ? I know vote for the right people ! I know that one vote can change the out come, Your in The Whitw House and that's something that makes me very proud ,and a again Thank You, Mr.President. God Bless You and Your Family Maxine

Rod Paige
Maxine thank you for your support and well wishes. The President is interested in making us a stronger nation. That requires a lot of work but one thing it does require is a great education system.

Lance, from Australia writes:
Morning Mr Secretary, I have always been extremely interested in American Politics. I was curious, have you got any advice to give a young hopeful on how he would be able to get to a position to serve in the public service of American Politics?

Rod Paige
Thank you for your question Lance. WE always need good people in politics. Public service is a wonderful endeavor to aspire to. My advice to a young person getting started is to get involved with local officials. This will bring you in contact with the system and it will provide opportunities for you to move forward. Working on a campaign is a great starting place but be careful who you choose to work for and support. Choose someone that has the same values that you support for your nation. Good Luck

Steve, from Los Angeles writes:
Thank you for taking your time to answer questions from the public. Since your the Secretary of Education, what are you going to do about the increase in classroom sizes mainly affecting California due to high deficits?

Rod Paige
Steve thank you for your question. The founding fathers of this nation especially those who wrote the Constitution elected to leave public education up to the responsibilities of the states. In the USA we have a unique system. States have the responsibility and control of public education but there is a federal interest. I am afraid we cannot do much about solving the classroom sizes in any of the states. This will have to be addressed by the local authorities in each state. We do provide assistance in each state primarily in instructional areas. For example, this year the Title 1 funds will be increased to $12.4 billion which is a 41% increase over when the president took office. There are many other examples of federal funding but actual facilities bricks and mortar issues are issues that have to be addressed by the states.

Rod Paige
Thank you for your interest in education and education issues and thank you for your support and involvement.

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