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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 19, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Las Vegas
Advanced Technologies Academy
Las Vegas, Nevada

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11:44 A.M. PST

MRS. BUSH: Hello, everybody. I'm so happy to be here at this really terrific school and I'm so glad that Dema Guinn joined me -- thank you for joining me Mrs. Guinn. I also want to congratulate the principal, Ms. Oler, for this fabulous school. And I thank Lauren and all the teachers who were in the roundtable with me, for participating in the roundtable.

Laura Bush participates in a roundtable at the Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday, February 19, 2004.  White House photo by Paul Morse I'm here at this school specifically, Advanced Technologies Academy, because this school is such a great example of what we want schools to be like in the 21st century. The AP courses that you heard us discuss in the roundtable, that are offered to so many students, are a great way to have a very rigorous curriculum and to be really prepared to go to college, if you choose to go to college after high school.

But also this school offers a computer for every, single student. I don't know if you heard Mrs. Oler's story about the one student who was a pre-law student, but when he interned in a law office here, he was the one who could help them with the computer, even though he didn't think he was that great with the computer compared to other students at the school. But what he could do was enough to get him a job while he was going to college, with this law firm.

So this is a part of why I am here, is to talk about the President's Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative that he announced at the State of the Union address. And that would be money for schools like this, that will prepare students for jobs that we'll have in the 21st century: technology jobs, science and math jobs, all of the ways that students can be prepared either to go on to college for more advanced degrees; or, like some of the students do here, to be so well-versed in technology that you can go straight to work from here without another degree.

So I'd be glad to take your questions.

Q I'm just wondering, so the No Child Left Behind Act, I just would like to hear you comment on how you think it's working in the rest of the country.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it's working well. I know that there are some states that are not that happy with it. But I will say -- critics say that there's not enough money appropriated with it, but there is more money in the No Child Left Behind Act than there's been in any previous federal law ever before. And there will be more money; more money was announced in the President's State of the Union address for the 2005 budget.

And I actually have some statistics here for Nevada, that the money that would come under Title I -- which is what is part of the money that's proposed for the 2005 budget -- for Title I schools would be an increase of $72 million here in this state, for Title I schools. And then, let's see, there actually is -- and this is another issue that has to do with states saying there's not enough money in it -- there is still about $6 billion in the No Child Left Behind Act that has not been drawn down by states. Now, many states may have that money obligated, but they actually have not drawn it down yet.

Laura Bush attends Ms. Mary Ziegler’s Classroom at the Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday, February 19, 2004.  White House photo by Tina Hager Q Mrs. Bush, welcome to Nevada, and welcome to a library, as a former librarian.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you.

Q I was wondering what you think about the Patriot Act, if it should be renewed, given some concerns that have been raised by people who use libraries, by people who can take out books?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think that the Patriot Act should be renewed when it comes up because I think it's very important in the fight against terrorism. And I understand the concerns of librarians, but I also know that no part of that Act has been acted upon in the library.

Q If the election were held today -- (laughter) -- according to recent polls, both Senators Kerry and Edwards have double-digit leads on the President.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm not really that sure about that poll. But I will say that I think the President is going to win the election. We've just been through a Democratic primary -- we're still in the midst of it, where the candidates, themselves, have spent over $100 million in running against the President. And when the Democrats pick a candidate and the campaign really starts, I think we'll see that change.

Q Do you think that some of the questions about the President's Air National Guard service have contributed to these -- the deficits right now?

MRS. BUSH: I don't know. I think it's probably the attacks by all of the candidates. But I will say that I think that's a diversion by the Democrats because, the fact is, the President has been Commander-in-Chief and he's been a very successful Commander-in-Chief. Because of his decisions and because of the actions of our country, little girls are going to school in Afghanistan for the first time in their lives. Afghanistan is trying to build a democracy. They have a new constitution that guarantees the right of women. And in Iraq, the people of Iraq are free from the torture and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

So I think what they're trying to do is to divert attention from how successful my husband, and our country, has actually been.

Q Mrs. Bush, I'd like to ask a follow-up question about No Child Left Behind. Did you have any input on -- your background is education, did you have --

MRS. BUSH: No, not really. It was very overwhelmingly supported by a bipartisan group in the Congress, and signed into law by the President. I had, when my husband was governor, in our state we had passed some similar legislation, which I did have a little bit of input in, very little. But I was at the summit on early childhood education and had experts from around the country who are expert in the new research about how children learn to read, come to Texas. And from that summit, a lot of the Reading First type money that's in the No Child Left Behind Act was appropriated in Texas back then -- but not really.

Q But are you getting a sense that No Child -- we had a story in yesterday's paper that 12 states are having problems with it, and it's not just money. Utah is having problems getting teachers who are specialty teachers -- some of the other requirements besides money. Is it time to look at No Child and make some changes?

MRS. BUSH: I know that the Department of Education has some changes that have to do with english as a second language for children -- children who don't have english as a first language.

The point is the testing that a lot of people object to is not punitive. You're not giving a test to punish people. You're giving a test so you'll know what you need to do. You can't solve a problem unless you can diagnose it. And if you don't know what the problems that your children have in your school, because you're not testing them, or you don't know the ways that you're failing to teach them because you're not testing, then you can't address their problems.

And one part of the Jobs for the 21st Century appropriations that I was talking about earlier is for intermediate reading programs. And these are for children who are in middle school -- students who have made it to middle school and high school and still have very low reading abilities. And we know that happens. Dr. Whitehurst was just talking about the research that we have about students in the United States, and we have to address those problems. And is it going to be easy? No. But it's absolutely necessary. It's not fair to students in the United States to let them get through school without a really great education. And it's incumbent upon adults to make sure every child all over our country gets a really good education.

Q There's some concern in the No Child Left Behind Act that while it's bringing the intermediate students that can't read up to level, that the more advanced students and the gifted students are being left out of the mix, they're almost being dumbed-down as a result of it. Should we be thinking of that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I've not heard that criticism of the No Child Left Behind Act, but I do know that that's part of the this 21st Century program, and that is to try to increase AP courses. Very few low income people in the United States, low income students, take AP courses. And we need to raise that.

Part of the problem in education is the gap that you're talking about. The gap really is a socioeconomic gap, the gap between the achievements of minority students and majority students. And we need to address that in every way we can, including, of course, very rigorous high school programs like this school provides. So part of that money would be for AP courses and for these remedial reading courses or reading interventions in middle school and high school, so that children can come up to level.

Q Another area that will be very important to voters here in Nevada this year, of course, is Yucca Mountain. And what can you tell voters here to assure them that sound science, and not politics, will dictate whether Yucca Mountain is --

MRS. BUSH: Well, that's absolutely what has to happen, that sound science be involved in it. I hope the voters here know that the administration, as well as the governor, as well as state and local and the Environmental Protection Agency will have that commitment to the state, that they would only look at sound science. You have to for the protection of the people. And I feel that I know they will.

I also know -- I think there is more money appropriated to try to have this be as low-impact as it possibly can be.

Q Also this past weekend, the Democrats held one of their largest caucuses ever in the state of Nevada. They were quite energized. Do you think the President will be making some stops in Nevada?

MRS. BUSH: I'm sure he will.

Q Will that be important?

MRS. BUSH: Pardon me?

Q Will Nevada be important?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, every state is important; believe me. And Nevada is very important.

Q Do you feel a little bit like the sacrificial lamb? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Not really.

Q You know, we're asking policy questions that you --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm not answering them very well -- (laughter) -- but I'm answering the ones I can answer.

Q But, I mean, your husband and Dick Cheney, when they come -- you know, they're kind of throwing you out there as the sacrificial lamb to answer the questions. Is that fair?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I wouldn't say that. Believe me, they address all these questions a lot more than I do.

Q What do you feel is your role in the upcoming campaign? Is it going to be tough? Are you going to have to defend the No Child Left Behind? Where are you going to fall on that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I am going to campaign for my husband, of course, because I've watched him over the last three years. I know what kind of job he's done. And I know how steady he's been for our country as we've faced some of the toughest challenges we've ever faced in our history, in our whole history. So I will be campaigning for him.

I also want to draw attention to the success stories, and this is one. This school is. And this is a school that, you know, the people of Nevada put together and developed and wanted for their students, for the children in their state. One of the things, one of the great privileges, really, of my job is that I have opportunity to travel around the country and see the very best. And this kind of school is an example to schools all over our country of what we should be providing students so that they can be successful when they go on and grow up and go on to get jobs as adults.

Q You mentioned that you were going to be campaigning for your husband. Are you concerned that this might be, as projected, one of the dirtiest campaigns in history? There is already talk by both parties that --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I hope it won't be that.

Q How do you deal with it?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's not easy to deal with, of course. No one likes to see somebody they love characterized in a way that they know they're not. But we have a lot of experience with that, a lot of other campaigns before us. It's just a fact of life in politics. You don't get used to it, I guess, but you know to expect it.

Q You're here to discuss Jobs for the 21st Century and preparing our students and our young people and our children for the days to come. The new reports out, though, say that obviously we need jobs to be there for our kids and for the future, and the jobs are not what was predicted. What can we do to fix it?

MRS. BUSH: What we need are these very sort of things, to trade -- another project I haven't mentioned as part of the money for Jobs for the 21st Century, is for community colleges to partner with industry, so that they can train people for the jobs that actually exist, and that will exist. And as Dr. Whitehurst said, the jobs of the 21st century are going to require great math skills, they're going to require great science skills. And that's why we, as adults, really need to make sure students have those skills.

There needs to be training for teachers, so that teachers, themselves, can get the training they need to teach these AP courses. Or people who don't have a teaching degree, but have very strong subject content degrees need to be able to get either alternative certification or some sort of certification so they can teach.

Q -- with regard to the numbers that are just coming out in the last 24, 48 hours, does it concern you?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, absolutely. I mean, we want every, single person to have a job that wants a job in the United States. The economy is getting better and, hopefully, that will increase the amount of jobs.

Q You mentioned this school as a great example of a wonderful school, with several AP courses. But not all schools are up to that level.

MRS. BUSH: Well, that's right, they're not. And that's what we're trying to do, that's the whole point of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Q Specifically, one of the largest issues here is over-crowding in classrooms. What can we do here in Nevada? And, also, what can be done on the federal level to --

MRS. BUSH: Well, Nevada is the fastest-growing state, and you have all the problems associated with fast growth. And one of them, of course, is not enough school buildings. But I know you are building more schools and will be building more schools. That's the difficulty of growing so fast.

But there are plenty of benefits on the other side, too, for your economy and your state. But those are -- there are just a number of issues that the people in Nevada will have to deal with because of this fast growth.

Q Well, what can the people of Nevada expect in the next four years if your President -- if your husband is reelected?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think they can expect really good government and somebody who is very concerned about education and has been able to express that concern with these sort of bills, and with the sort of appropriations that's come out of the federal government -- more than ever before for elementary and secondary education. And it's really important.

I know that education is a local issue, and we see the results of that right here, where we are. This isn't a school that the federal government built; this isn't a program that the federal government designed. This is a program that was designed by the people in Nevada, because that's what they wanted for their students. And that's really important. It's very important for local people to be involved in every school issue. I mean, they are the parents who have their kids here. So I think that's important.

But I also think that Nevada will have a President who has a really strong character and a lot of compassion and loves his country; he loves the people of our country.

Q One of the big questions in front of the country right now is gay marriage. Would you support a constitutional amendment banning it?

MRS. BUSH: Well, the President is thinking about that and discussing it with a number of people up there. I know what he doesn't want is for the supreme court of Massachusetts or the mayor of San Francisco to make the choice for the rest of the country. You know, this is a very -- this is a subject that really does need to be talked about by the American people. And I agree with him, that it's something that needs to be handled carefully and talked about by all people.

Okay. Thanks you all. Thanks so much. Thanks for coming out. (Applause.)

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