San Diego Union Tribune

(Page A-12 )

10-Feb-2001 Saturday 

S.D. schools boss backs essence of Bush's plan 

OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- San Diego schools Superintendent Alan Bersin and other education officials yesterday gave support to the basic thrust of President Bush's education plan following a White House meeting with the president
and Education Secretary Roderick Paige.

The private meeting in the Roosevelt Room lasted 75 minutes, with Bush attending about 45 minutes, Bersin said. He was one of six city schools superintendents and eight state education officials from across the country
at the meeting.

Bersin said he disagrees with Bush's proposal for federally financed vouchers to help parents move their children from public schools to private schools, but he embraced the fundamental concept of Bush's education plan. 
He credited Bush with changing the debate over the federal government's role in education.

Previously, some Republicans have called for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, but now there is an understanding that the federal government can help state and local officials improve their schools without
micromanaging them, Bersin said.

After the meeting, the school chiefs expressed support for the essence of Bush's plan. Several of them emphasized the need for flexibility while stressing greater accountability.

"All of us were echoing the importance of accountability," said Bersin, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. "But with that you have got to provide the resources and the flexibility."

With California already requiring regular testing to measure students' progress, Bersin said Bush's plan "dovetails with the program California has staked out and San Diego is implementing."

The San Diego Unified School District tests all students from second to 11th grade, he said, so "the big pieces are in place."

Bersin was particularly pleased with the president's emphasis on helping "at-risk children" to ensure that "no child is left behind" regardless of social class, race or ethnicity.