WASHINGTON – President Bush urged Congress on Saturday to build on the momentum of his tax cut package and move ahead with an overhaul of public school education.
"We are within reach of historic education reform; so far, the signs are very good," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Both parties have been working together and I hope both parties will vote together as well."
Last weekend's passage of the $1.35 trillion tax cut bill was "an important bipartisan achievement," the president said. He is expected to sign the legislation this week.
The House has passed a $24 billion education package that requires schools to test the reading and math skills of students in grades three through eight. Schools that do not sufficiently improve test scores after one year would qualify for extra federal aid, but could be forced to replace some staff.
Also, low-income students in schools receiving federal funds would have the choice of transferring to another public school.
The legislation does not include Bush's original plan for the government to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools. Efforts by conservatives to restore that provision failed.
"Skeptics may claim that these education reforms are too much to hope for. But that's what used to be said about tax relief," the president said. "The truth is that real reform is possible if we lay our partisan differences aside and work together in the interests of the American people."
As evidence of progress on tax relief, Bush noted that this summer Americans will start receiving tax refund checks of up to $300 for individuals, $500 for single parents and $600 for couples.
He cited other provisions of the tax legislation, including provisions to for partially refundable credits to low-income families with children, allowing higher contributions to individual retirement accounts and 401 (k) accounts, and increasing to $10,000 the maximum tax credit for adoption.
Democrats focused on energy problems in their Saturday radio address, demanding that Bush set price caps on gas and electricity to help Californians deal with the energy crunch.
Rep. Anna Eshoo of California asserted that limits on energy prices would provide immediate relief "from generators who are gouging and gaming the system by withholding power we have available right now to drive up prices five, 10, even 20 times its market value."
The president, first lady Laura Bush, their twin daughters and his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were spending the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.