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Bush: New Tools To Rate Schools

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President Bush is offering a new tool to help parents measure how their children's schools are performing, an initiative that is the centerpiece of an education speech sandwiched between two fund-raisers in Florida.

Mr. Bush was announcing a new partnership between the Education Department and the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation that will provide Internet-based data to parents on schools. It will allow parents to use the No Child Left Behind Act to compare local schools with others within a state.

The president signed the major education measure into law 20 months ago and has used its provisions to highlight his domestic agenda this week. Tuesday, he was speaking to 350 students, parents and education professionals at Hyde Park Elementary School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Such education speeches also allow the White House to bill taxpayers for half the cost of Mr. Bush's fund raising. Each of Mr. Bush's three trips outside Washington this week has fund-raisers, and the Florida trip Tuesday is a double shot, expected to haul in a combined $2.8 million in Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.

Mr. Bush was beginning his brief stay in Florida with a fund-raiser at Alltel Stadium's new terrace suite in Jacksonville, and ending it with an evening fund-raiser at Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

The fund-raisers will push Mr. Bush well past the $60 million mark for his re-election campaign. The money is earmarked exclusively for the primaries; the president faces no opponent for his party's nomination.

The White House has said Mr. Bush needs to raise the money to respond to increasingly sharp attacks from Democratic presidential candidates. He is rapidly eclipsing what the Democrats probably will be able to spend in the race for their party's nomination. Those who accept public financing must abide by an overall spending limit of roughly $45 million.

Mr. Bush's dual fund-raisers show he means business about winning Florida, site of the 2000 recount debacle and a state he was visiting for the 16th time as president.

He also has an asset in the form of his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush.

"I'm going to help my brother, but I'm going to do it in the proper context of the fact that I've got a job to do," the governor said. "I know my brother understands that because he's got a job to do as well and he was governor of a state. He knows you can't spend all your time on political endeavors."

The president is fond of saying during his fund-raisers that "the political season will come in its own time." It's a way of telling audiences that he is focused on public policy, even as he is collecting money for his re-election.

But Mr. Bush offered a rare acknowledgment of his keen eye for Electoral College politics Monday night in Nashville, Tenn.

Mr. Bush narrowly won Al Gore's home state in 2000, and hasn't forgotten that the state helped carry him to the presidency.

"Without Tennessee, there'd be no President George W. Bush," he told donors.