WASHINGTON -- President Bush sent Congress a $22.3 billion education spending plan Wednesday, saying the nation gets more than its money back when scholastic improvement leads to economic strength and global competitiveness.
At a ceremony recognizing National Teacher of the Year Mary Bicouvaris of Hampton, Va., Bush picked up on his campaign pledge to become the 'education president' and announced details of his proposed legislation, which adds $441 million to President Reagan's $21.9 billion plan for next year.
'I believe that greater educational achievement promotes sustained economic growth, enhances the nation's competitive position in world markets, increases productivity and leads to higher incomes for everyone,' Bush said. 'The nation must invest in its young people, giving them the knowledge, skills, and values to live productive lives. (This package) would move us toward this goal.'
Highlights of the 'Educational Excellence Act of 1989,' which formalizes proposals already included in Bush's fiscal 1990 budget, include:
-$250 million for Merit Schools programs that promote student educational achievement, create a safe and drug-free school environment and reduce the dropout rate; the funds would increase to $500 million by 1993 and would be allocated by a formula to the states.
-$100 million for magnet schools providing creative education opportunities.
-$25 million for one-time grants to states to assist in providing alternative certification for teachers and principals.
-$25 million for drug-free schools emergency grants to help students at risk of severe drug abuse problems.
-$10 million for historically black colleges and universities, increasing to $20 million for 1991 and for 1992.
-$7.6 million each year through 1993 for a new program of $5,000 presidential awards for excellent public and private school teachers.
-$5 million for scholarships to graduating high school students who excel in sciences, mathematics and engineering; the amount would increase by increments of $5 million a year to a 1993 authorization of $20 million.
In addition to those initiatives, Bush proposed a budget amendment for $13 million in new funding for experiments and collection of data in support of education reform. He also asked Congress to fund fully the authorization of a homeless assistance law, which includes $2.5 million for first-time grants and $2.7 million for literacy programs for homeless adults.
At the White House ceremony, the president called on his wife, Barbara, to present a crystal apple to Bicouvaris one day after she accepted her crown from the Teacher of the Year program sponsors: the Council of Chief State School Officers, Encyclopaedia Britannica and Good Housekeeping magazine.
Bicouvaris, 49, an instructor in government-international relations at Bethel High School in Hampton, is the 38th teacher to receive the title but the first one from Virginia. A native of Greece, she came to the United States 29 years ago, earned bachelor's and master's degrees and began teaching social studies in Hampton even before she became an American citizen.