The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 8, 2006

President and Mrs. Bush Visit Elementary School in Mississippi
College Park Elementary School
Gautier, Mississippi

Mrs. Bush's Remarks

      In Focus: Hurricane Recovery
      In Focus: Education

12:22 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are really honored to be back in Mississippi with the Governor and the First Lady. Most of all, we're pleased to be with those who are helping to educate the young here on the Gulf Coast.

We, of course, want to thank those who are helping this important part of the country rebuild. Part of rebuilding the community is to make sure that the schools are able to function well and teach children how to read and write and add and subtract. Laura and I are committed to making sure no child is left behind anywhere in the United States of America.

I particularly want to thank the superintendent, the principal and the teachers for helping this important part of the country recover from a devastating storm.

And now it's my honor to introduce the First Lady, who is going to make an announcement. (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much. (Applause.). Thank you all. I made this announcement when we were in New Orleans earlier this morning and I want to make it now here in Mississippi so that the Mississippi press and everybody in Mississippi hears about it.

We've done some various things today -- talked about debris removal and other things. But, of course, what's really closest to my heart are our schools, and so I wanted to talk to you a little bit about a school library initiative

In July 2001, the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries was formed. The Foundation is a private organization that provides grants to help school libraries expand their book collections.

Over the last four years, the Foundation has awarded 428 grants, totaling more than $2 million in 49 states. In September of last year, the leadership council of the Laura Bush Foundation was meeting for their final meeting and they decided to continue to try to raise money, especially for the Gulf Coast. And so we established a special fund to help the schools in this region -- the Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative was created.

This initiative will help Gulf Coast schools that were damaged by hurricanes rebuild their books and material collections for their school libraries. The task ahead is large. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1,121 public and private schools in the Gulf Coast region were damaged or destroyed. And the basic cost of building a book collection for an elementary school is about $50,000. And the cost for a secondary school library is usually over $100,000.

The Laura Bush Foundation website -- which is -- has a simple application that schools can use to apply for funds. Again, the website is

The Foundation already uses a competitive grant process to distribute annual grants. And we'll use the same process for the Gulf Coast funds.

Some schools should receive awards by late April or early May. And additional grants will be distributed throughout the year as more schools are rebuilt and ready to restock their libraries.

The Laura Bush Foundation will continue to provide its annual grants to schools throughout the whole United States, and you can find details about those grants on the website.

But these special grants for the Gulf Coast rebuilding are for schools that were damaged or destroyed by the hurricanes and want to build their library and collections.

With us today is one person from the Laura Bush Leadership Council, one of the ones who met with me last October and said, let's don't disband our committee, let's keep going so we can raise money specifically for Gulf Coast libraries -- Marshall Payne is here from Dallas. (Applause.)

And then also working with the Laura Bush Foundation is a group of library experts from around the country -- librarians and library experts. They are the ones who read the competitive grants and make the choices of the schools that will get the grant. And Barbara Martin is here from Dallas with us -- or, actually, from north Texas. She's one of our library special advisory committee. (Applause.) Her husband, Bob Martin, is with us, was our former Institute of Museum and Library Services director, which is one of the federal agencies that has to do with libraries and museums.

We al know that schools are at the very center of every child's life. And the routine of going to school gives children a sense of comfort that's more important than ever for boys and girls who have endured trauma. The sooner children are back in their own school, the happier and healthier they'll be.

So I want to thank everyone again who's working hard to help the Gulf Coast recover. I urge Gulf Coast schools that are rebuilding to go to the and apply for a grant for their school library.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

12:28 P.M. CST


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