Led by first lady Barbara Bush, top federal officials toured schools today in Baltimore, Ellicott City and Greenbelt to publicize the launching of a "Maryland 2000" education . campaign.
It is based on the goal-setting "America 2000" campaign the Bush administration announced in April to guide school reform nationwide through the year 2000.
The Maryland campaign would encourage community involvement in school reforms outlined in the state's "Schools for Success" program, which began last year.
Mrs. Bush was planning to visit Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City, in the company of David T. Kearns, deputy U.S. secretary of education, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
U.S. Energy Secretary James D. Watkins, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly and Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan also were coming to Maryland.
Watkins today toured the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Reilly was to teach a class at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and Sullivan was to inspect Baltimore's Park West Medical Center.
Schaefer is spearheading the Maryland campaign and arranged Mrs. Bush's visit. Yesterday he spoke with President Bush and praised his education initiatives during a 10-minute telephone conference call that included Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander.
Schaefer told the president that Maryland's top public education goals include making schools drug free and meeting the nurturing needs of pre-school age children "so everyone starts evenly."
The president promised a bipartisan effort and jokingly cautioned Schaefer to treat his wife well during her visit. "I don't want her coming home grumpy."
The president had nothing to worry about: Worthington students were looking forward to reading poems for Mrs. Bush and presenting her with letters and flowers they made in art class. She in turn planned to read to teacher Helen Banghart's second grade class from a children's tale, "Jamaica Tag-A-Long."
School principal Betty King said it's about a girl who discovers her self-worth. "Children need not feel that they're left out," said King, describing the moral of the story. "They have something within that they have to contribute."
Worthington is part of the comparatively affluent Howard County school system, which more than most in Maryland comes closest to the objectives of President Bush and the governor.
The Bush administration initiative is built around six goals intended to increase the high school graduation rate and adult literacy, improve student competency and help prepare children for entering school.
Asking each community to adopt these goals, Bush has called for voluntary national examinations, national standards, school "report cards" to measure results, experimental schools and greater involvement by business leaders. Bush also wants parents to have a choice in selecting schools, public or private.
Watkins promised the school he toured, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore, computers, science videos and summer internships for its teachers in national science laboratories. The help is offered as part of an agreement with his department.
The school is part of Maryland 2000. Its program features all-male and all-female classrooms in the second and fifth grades. The classes feature role models from the community who teach the students that they can succeed and they should stay in school.
Watkins endorsed Coleman's Maryland 2000 classes as an important part of America 2000, the national program. He praised teacher Carter Bayton as a national hero for his leadership of 30 black male second-graders. Bayton is featured in a story in this month's Life magazine.
Watkins used a lesson of recycling to teach Bayton's second-graders and then went to a fifth-grade class of all black female students, where he stressed the importance of learning math and science as "empowerment tools."
"I understood that if you get into math and science you can be in any field you want to," said Andrea Henry, 9, who wants to be a nurse.
Supporters of America 2000, including Schaefer, praise features of the plan and welcome the attention Bush is paying to education by boosting the "2000" plan in his stops around the country. But even those who praise it understand Bush plans no drastic increase in federal funding to help communities meet the goals.
"It helps to set high expectations for all of us in education," said Bonnie S. Copeland, deputy state superintendent of education, and puts "education in the forefront of the public mind."
"Of course we always want additional money, and recognize the federal dollars are decreasing," Copeland said.
The National Education Association strongly criticizes features of America 2000 that could divert funding from public to private schools, such as the parental school choice idea. And the NEA, which represents two million teachers, calls for more federal spending.