Now is time to focus on schools, Bush aide says; education adviser returns to Dallas to address chamber

Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Page 20A

Now is time to focus on schools, Bush aide says
Education adviser returns to Dallas to address chamber

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

The education choices being made today will someday be considered as historic as one settler’s decision to build a home on the east bank of the Trinity River, according to the Dallas attorney who has President Bush’s ear.

“This is a John Neely Bryan moment,” said Sandy Kress, the former Dallas school board president who is Mr. Bush’s senior education adviser. “We’re going to be judged years from now on how our schools prepared our children for the future. Previous generations built tall buildings or an airport. We have to make children our buildings of the future.”

Mr. Kress was in town Monday to speak at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. He split his time between pitches for the education bill the administration is attempting to move through Congress and a call for continued education reform in Texas.

“Texas can be, with five more years of concentrated work, the first state in the country to have a K-12 system worthy of its children,” he said. “It would be easy to stop now, but we have to keep it going.”

He said the federal education bill would provide greater flexibility for local school districts while increasing accountability. Mr. Bush’s bill includes a public school choice provision allowing parents whose students attend schools considered poor to send them elsewhere.

“These reforms are radical,” he said. “We will finally be able to have reform and have people be accountable for whether it works or not.”

Despite his partisan background – he was once chairman of the Dallas County Democratic Party – he has had a relationship with the Republican Mr. Bush for almost a decade. He recounted a day nine years ago when he asked Mr. Bush for his support in what was shaping up to be a risky re-election bid for the DISD board.

“After he thought about it, he said he’d send out a letter for me,” he said. “In large part because of that, I ended up with no opposition, raised lots of money and won.”

Mr. Kress also had lavish praise for Dallas Superintendent Mike Moses, who he said “is a real leader, which means this is a unique opportunity for the Dallas schools.” Business leaders should back Dr. Moses and get personally involved in the schools by mentoring at-risk children, he said.