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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.

Margaret Spellings
Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy

April 8, 2004

Margaret Spellings
Hello. Happy to take your questions today about the President's education initiatives to build a stronger workforce. Let's go.

Edwin, from Washington, D.C. writes:
What is your typical day like in the White House?

Margaret Spellings
Hey Edwin, thanks for participating today. Every day at the White House is different. My day begins with participation in our daily Senior Staff meeting which is held at 7:30 a.m.

On a couple of days I come early to work out at the White House Gym at 6:00 a.m. since that is usually the only time not to be interrupted. The White House starts early and goes late.

In fact, some parts like the Situation Room operate 24 hours a day. I have meetings with my staff and with folks involved in policy-making so that we can develop recommendations to the President.

Some days I meet with members of the Congress to talk about the President’s policies and I make speeches on issues to various groups also.

We also work on reviewing documents like the President’s speeches, letters to members of Congress and others, Executive Orders and the like.

Finally, we work on Presidential events many of which are held outside of Washington D.C where the President talks about domestic and other policy priorities.

Mike, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
President Bush has repeatedly stated that he doesn't believe that Washington has all the answers to our nation's problems. How does that stated belief jibe with new federal education requirements, spending, and programs, all of which share the underlying assumption that the solution to our problems does indeed come from Washington?

Margaret Spellings
President Bush is asking that we get results for the federal tax payer dollars that we invest on various fronts.

For example on Monday of this week he laid out a plan to reform the Workforce Investment (WIA) system.

Through the program we spend about 4 billion dollars in job training for adult and dislocated workers – only a small number -- about 200, 000 people actually get training through this program.

The President proposes to give states more authority and flexibility to serve workers in their states so long as there is accountability for the number of workers placed, the retention rates in jobs and the earnings made.

We at the federal level have mandated various programs with lots of strings attached and have required layers of bureaucracy to administer the system. The President’s plan will get resources to workers who need training more quickly.

The President believes that we should be getting results for the money we spend at the federal level. There are many areas where we have agreed up goals by state, local and federal officials.

Such as having all children reading on grade level by the end of third grade. It is important for the federal government to articulate and support goals like this with the resources invested.

Scott, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma writes:
I am so proud of our U.S. Soldiers and the patriotism they possess. My heart and prayers go to them and their families. In addition, I am praying for

President Bush and the leaders of our country in this time of unrest and the many decisions they must make for our country. I would like to know if there is a web-site that I could send e-mails to the troops thanking them for serving, and to encourage them during this time? Thank you again for serving our country.


Scott Cragg My God guide and bless our country, leaders, service menwomen and there families.

Margaret Spellings
There is such a site, Scott.

Go to:

Dear Abby, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of the Navy is providing this private and secure online resource that will allow you to send a Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Coast Guardsman a message of support.

Mike, from Joliet IL writes:
Most of our jobs are going overseas and it seems nothing can be done about it. We seem to be moving to service type business, so what can be done to make sure those jobs (companies) don't wind up being owned by overseas interests?

Margaret Spellings

We have millions of jobs available in America today and, in many cases, no qualified American to fill them.

High growth fields like advanced manufacturing, health care, education and biotechnology offer promise to Americans seeking work.

Unfortunately, we have what the President calls a "skills gap" between the qualifications of some American workers and the needs of the workforce.

A few statistics.....

Only 67 of 100 American 9th graders graduate from high school. Only 26 are in college after two years in a day and time when most of the high growth jobs will require that level of training. We have particular needs in fields of math and science.

Therefore, we must work on this on two fronts. First, we must make sure more kids graduate from high school with the skills necessary to participate either in the workforce or in higher education. For adult and dislocated workers, we must find ways to support their skill enhancement so they can participate actively in the workforce.

This week, President Bush called for policies on both fronts. In high school, he called for strengthening the Perkins program which is the federal government $1 billion investment in vocational education by ensuring that strong academics such as three years of math and science are offered as part of those programs so that kids are workforce ready if that is the direction they choose.

Further, he has proposed a $250 million community college initiative for partnerships between employers and community colleges to rapidly train and re-train adult workers.


Margaret Spellings

Check out this web site:

It is a great resource.

Julie, from Charlotte, NC writes:
I am concerned over information that is buzzing in my work place. I am a 14 year career Open heart recovery RN. It is my understanding that soon, due to a Bush proposal, I can be FORCED by my employer to work overtime, but will not be eligible for the overtime pay. With such a national nursing shortage,

surely this is not true. I feel 12-16 hour days recovering fresh open heart patients is difficult enough. It is hard to think clearly after so many hours. We care about our patients and know their lives are literally in our hands. There is not a physician there. When you have open heart surgery you will be received by, and cared for by an RN. Do you want that nurse to be tired as she manages your ventilator and critical life support drips? A slight

medication error when someone is on so many drips is deadly. We are not working on machines. We are working on human beings. Someones mother, father, wife, child. I promise this nation will lose nurses in DROVES if we are forced to be over worked. I promise hospital administrators will not

hesitate to force nurses to work incredulous hours to staff their units.

Please tell me I am misinformed. Thanks, Julie RN

Margaret Spellings
Thank you for your question regarding the proposed regulations with respect to overtime security. I appreciate your concern about the nursing profession and would like to correct some of the misinformation you have heard. The Department of Labor has not proposed to change the overtime regulations governing registered nurses at all. Therefore, there should be no change in overtime status for nurses.

The President recognizes the great need for skilled nurses and has, in fact, focused many of the Federal government's workforce dollars to recruit and train additional nurses.

The Department of Labor will soon release its final rule updating the Fair Labor Standard Act rules that govern overtime-pay eligibility for white-collar workers. The goal of these rules is to strengthen overtime protections for low-wage and middle class workers and reduce a rapidly expanding volume of litigation.

The final updated regulations will also make the rules clearer so that employees will know their rights, employers will know their obligations, and workers can get their overtime without resorting to costly litigation.

Earl, from Phoenix writes:
What is the status of the "workforce reinvestment and adult education act of 2003" ???


Margaret Spellings

The workforce investment act has passed both houses of congress and is awaiting appointment of a conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Thanks for following the legislation so closely.

Roy, from Lincoln, Nebraska writes:
In what sectors, do Americans need to be trained? How could this potentially affect the status of unemployment?

Margaret Spellings

Great question. High growth fields include many in the health care professions such as medical records and health information technicians, physical therapist aides, home health aides, physician and medical assistants, dental hygenists and assistants.

Also growing are, advanced manufacturing and biotechnology fields as well as a need for educators particularly those with expertise in special education, math and science.

April, from kerens,tx writes:
Why wont president Bush come to our school but he will go to other schools?Our school has never had anyone famouse at it.well if he desides to tell him to come to Kerens,tx


Margaret Spellings
Hi April

What grade are you in? The President loves to visit schools and goes to as many as he can. Unfortunately, he can't make it to every school in America or I'm sure he would come to Kerens.

He especially loves to visit Texas and is at his ranch in Crawford now.

When he does visit schools, we like to highlight schools that focus on closing the achievement gap and have all kids working and reading on grade level.

Email me your address and I will send you some Presidential M&M's and some baseball cards of the White House you can share with your classmates.

Brenda, from Shelby, NC writes:
Hi, I don't have a question, but I do want to let you know that there is a very special person in our home that supports President Bush 100.... my husband Steve Carlile. He is a native Texan, and is very strong and I mean strong and clear on what he stands for. He loves his country and loves what Pres. Bush stands for, (he was proud to see him in his felt hat in the beginning of his presidency, as Steve has one of those too). He doesn't have alot of money and can't support President Bush with a 2,000 donation, but believe me you will never find a better citizen of the US and of Texas. Steve would tell Bush that he needs to stay the course, that it takes guts to keep going and finish the job in Iraq.

Thanks for taking the time to read this email, as I know that you all have more to do than read email from ordinary (little) people as myself. I have heard the news media put it that way, we are the little people and you all are the big people.

Thanks again, Brenda Carlile

Margaret Spellings

Your husband sounds great. The President very much appreciates his support and prayers. I will relay your message to him.

As for you being a "little person" please know that lots of "little people" now work at the White House to serve all Americans, big and little.

Erik, from Bethesda, MD writes:
Can you discuss the impetus for President Bush's proposal to require all

states to participate in the NAEP for 12th graders. Was this, at least in part, inspired by the recent report from the NAGB commission, the National Commission on NAEP 12th Grade Assessment and Reporting? Do you have an estimate for how much this would cost? To clarify, since there already is a national sample for 12th grade NAEP, I assume the idea here is to have state-by-state NAEP results for 12th graders, as currently is required for grades 4 and 8? Do you have a cost estimate, and would the federal government pay for it? Also, would this require congressional action?

Margaret Spellings

Are you the Erik from Education Week? The President called for the 12th grade NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) which as you know is our nation's report card on the health of our education system.

Further, as you know, this requirement builds on No Child Left Behind which requires participation from states in grades 4 - 8. The President believes that with the imperative for higher level skills it is important to begin to know more about high schools in America and how they are doing in preparing kids for the workplace and post-secondary education, ie: college.

We estimate that the cost is between $15 and $30 million and we would of course envision having the fed government pay for it as it does other NAEP testing.

This proposal would take congressional action.

Margaret Spellings
I love doing Ask the White House! I wish I could stay longer, but I hope that Jimmy Orr will ask me to do this again soon. Thanks for the great interest and intelligent questions that you asked. See you next time.

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