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Paige sworn in as education secretary

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vowing to build a bipartisan consensus on reforming America's schools, Rod Paige took the helm of the Education Department Wednesday at a ceremony attended by President Bush.

paige
The new Secretary of Education Dr. Roderick Paige, takes the oath of office  

"When each and every child in this country can receive a quality public education, we have made history together," said Paige, 67. "Together we can."

Vice President Dick Cheney issued the oath of office to Paige in a ceremony at the Education Department.

Bush's attendance underscored the new administration's commitment to education reform, which the president has identified as his top priority.

"I wanted to be here to see the beginning of a new era in public education," said Bush, who submitted a detailed plan to Congress Tuesday for education reform.

The Bush plan calls for annual testing of children in math and reading from grades three through eight, a significant increase in the frequency of student performance assessment. It also calls for an increase in federal funds for teacher training. It would reward school districts and schools that improve student performance with more money, and punish those that fail to show improvement by cutting federal funds.

The president also called for a voluntary voucher system where parents with children whose schools fail to show improvement over three years can obtain federal aid -- roughly $1,500 per year -- to pay for private school tuition, a private tutor or for transportation to an alternative public school.

Bush's plan has won considerable bipartisan praise -- with the exception of vouchers, which many Democrats criticize as detrimental to public schools.

Paige is the former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, a job that Bush said prepared the new secretary well for his job. "He has not just talked about education reform, he's practiced it, and that's why I picked him," Bush said.


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Wednesday, January 24, 2001

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