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WASHINGTON – Parents and teachers from across the country joined Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Campaign for America's Future Co-director Robert Borosage and MoveOn.org's Peter Schurman to call on President Bush to fire his Education Secretary, Roderick Paige, in a major online petition drive (www.firepaige.org  ). The petition was announced today on a conference call with reporters moments before President Bush attended a rodeo in Dr. Paige's hometown on a campaign fundraising trip to Houston, Texas.
Dr. Paige called millions of teachers part of a "terrorist" group. While families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks demanded the Bush-Cheney campaign pull its first television ad for insensitive footage, parents, teachers and students nationwide announced their outrage that the Bush Administration is attacking teachers instead of listening to them to ensure a high-quality public education.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., came to the defense of teachers, noting that President Bush failed his own challenge to improve education.
"Millions of parents and teachers across the country are coming together to launch this petition drive aimed at the White House," said McCollum. "We hope to save our nation's children from the Bush Administration."
Campaign for America's Future Co-director Robert Borosage noted that Rod Paige and the Bush Administration broke their promise to fund education reforms.
"When teachers who know what is happening in the classroom start expressing their concerns, the Bush Administration treats them as an enemy," said Borosage. "We need to listen to our teachers to improve the education every child across America receives."
Many Republicans are outraged as well. Ginny Evans of Plano, Texas was on today's media conference call. Evans is a public school teacher in the Lewisville Independent School District and was offended by Paige's remarks not only as a teacher but also as a Republican.
"I was outraged when I heard Dr. Paige's comments," said Evans. "Teachers are about building up, not tearing down. Day in and day out, I go into my classroom to protect my students from the terrorism and tyranny that can happen from a lack of education. Dr. Paige relinquished any credibility he may have had and is no more than a demagogue of those who want to destroy public education."
Sherrie Matula is a teacher who has taught in two Houston area school districts — 11 years in the district that surrounds the NASA Space Center and 12 years in the district where "Urban Cowboy" was filmed many years ago. Matula has advocated for at-risk children for more than 20 years and noted that President Bush's reforms will not work.
"President Bush and Dr. Paige know you shouldn't mess with Texas — especially parents and teachers in Texas," said Matula. "As someone who advocates for children who falls through the cracks, I am disgusted. As a teacher, I am offended. I know firsthand that many children do not fit onto President Bush's assembly line and will certainly be left behind."
Conservative Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature added fuel to the fire the day after Paige's "terrorist" remarks when they passed a resolution to repeal President Bush's education reforms criticizing the Bush Administration's inadequate funding. The Idaho legislature last week urged major changes to the President's plan. The Connecticut Senate Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution asking Congress for a waiver from the law for states with high education standards. The Bush Administration has not attacked these legislative bodies as "terrorist" groups.
Mass. Teacher of the Year, Jeffrey Ryan of Reading, Mass., last week refused to attend an event with Rod Paige in the nation's capital. Ryan lost a friend in the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Associated Press. Ryan was personally offended by Paige's comments and said his refusal to attend the meeting was a protest of the Bush Administration's education policies designed to undermine public schools.
Other Teachers of the Year that participated in the meeting with Paige said that one teacher, Elspeth Corrigan Moore of West New York, N.J., cried when she spoke about Paige's comments, according to the New York Times. Moore and her students had a direct line of sight to the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
**NOTE: Media representatives interested in hearing
today's news teleconference call can download and listen to
an electronic sound file of remarks here. **