Sen. Edward Kennedy (search), in a back-to-school challenge to Republicans, used the Democratic Party's radio address Saturday to lobby for more federal money for education.

"We need our Republican colleagues to join us in giving education the high priority that it deserves at the national level," said Kennedy, the senior Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees education.

"The stakes are too high for us to allow political gamesmanship to get in the way," the Massachusetts senator said. "No less than our national security and competitive standing in the world are at risk."

Kennedy accused the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress of shortchanging the sweeping No Child Left Behind Act (search), a law he helped pass in 2001. Democrats, he said, want more money for teacher training, small class sizes, early childhood education and college aid.

"We are determined to have these issues debated in Congress this fall," Kennedy said.

Bush officials and Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly disputed the claim that they have not provided enough money to states and school districts. But both parties have expressed concern about slipping U.S. competitiveness in math, science and other fields.

Kennedy's comments come as millions of students return to school for a new academic year.