Candidates differ on federal reach

Agreeing that science and technology education is vital to the global economy,

the two major presidential candidates differ on how the federal government

should reach out to help state and local efforts.

Advisers for Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush spoke

to a forum full of scientists, technology experts and educators at the American

Association for the Advancement of Science on Thursday. They highlighted

how the candidates would use federal money on programs to improve access

to information technology in schools and to include IT in teaching subjects

such as science, technology and math.

"The 21st-century economy is based on knowledge, and knowledge is based

on science," said Robert Walker, Bush's top science and research and development

adviser and a former chairman of the House Science Committee.

Although most of the work on the education front happens at the state and

local levels, Gore wanted to use the federal government's influence to affect

science and technology learning, said David Beier, Gore's chief domestic

policy adviser.

In addition to providing more funding to state and local governments for

education and Internet access, Gore's plans include encouraging children

as young preschoolers to participate in science and technology disciplines,

aiming to catch their attention and generate excitement as early as possible,

Beier said.

Gore is also focusing on the concept of life-long learning and is trying

to make it easier for people who already have degrees to go back for further

education and training, he said.

A $1 billion math and science partnership fund tops Bush's plans. The initiative

would build a partnership among state and local education agencies and colleges

and universities, Walker said. States would be held accountable for boosting

student achievement in math and science while universities would help strengthen

state resources by providing their expertise.

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