Southfield – Education needs to start at home and continue in the classroom with every child being given the chance to learn and succeed, President Bush stressed Monday as he spoke to a group of parents, educators and community members at Vandenberg Elementary School in Southfield.

Paul Wong
President Bush addresses members of the press and students at Vandenberg Elementary School in Southfield Monday morning. JESSICA YURASEK/ Daily

President Bush said he was visiting the school because it welcomes and educates children from all backgrounds and because “there is a mindset that says every child can learn.”

During his visit, he took the opportunity to publicly honor Asya Obad, a University student, for her dedication to community service.

President Bush also urged parents to consider turning off the TV more often in order to encourage their children to read instead and emphasized the need for them to take an active role in their children’s education.

“Parents have a responsibility in the public education system of America,” he said. “To make sure your child comes to school with the understanding that they’re going to be polite when they get in the classroom, with the understanding that they’ll treat their teacher with respect, with the understanding that there are certain manners that are important.”

The president also stressed the importance of accountability on multiple levels via testing to help make sure students get the most out of their public school education.

“We need to know whether or not children are able to read early. And if they’re not, use the accountability system as a way to correct problems,” he said.

He added that testing students early could help ensure that there is “no child left behind.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills), one of many community leaders attending the event, said the president’s trip was especially significant because it was a “purely educational visit to recognize an outstanding school … and to give some reflection to his feeling for the achievements they’ve made.”

Knollenberg said that recognizing Vandenberg sends a positive signal as far as acknowledging “a school that does extraordinary things” and added that he hopes to see what goes on at Vandenberg shared with other schools in other districts so that schools throughout the state and country can follow suit.

“Every child should have an opportunity to learn,” Knollenberg said. “Today was an example of that reflected by this school.”

Several University students and other activists traveled to Southfield for the visit to voice their concerns over some of the president’s educational and political platforms.

President Bush recently proposed – and then withdrew – a plan to change interest rates on student loans. The plan angered many students because they believed it would increase the costs of student loans, making it more difficult for some to attend college.

“We’re hoping to show that the president is not infallible on his education policy, that it has a lot of shortfalls both in budgeting and in policy,” said protester and LSA senior Eric Feldman, a member of Michigan Democratic Party Youth Caucus.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige also spoke at the school during the president’s visit. Paige is currently on a 25-city tour of schools to discuss and promote the No Child Left Behind Act, an education bill signed four months ago. In 2002 alone, the federal government will invest more than $4 billion to increase the quality of teachers throughout the nation.

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