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INZat’Veb -. Bush In Manhattan “This campaign raises money from white peo ple and holds events for black and brown peo ple.” Don’t wait for an announcement from Karl Rove or Karen Hughes; this is an unofficial campaign observation picked up from a road weary reporter, several weeks out on the Bush Bus and eager to go home. “This,” the reporter said, “is the minority event.” That much was evident, even to someone A.ot accustomed to following presidential candidates from one staged event to another. We were standing in the basement gym of the Sisulu Charter School in Harlem, waiting for George W. Bush and Governor Pataki to arrive. The school was new, the Bush Campaign was white, and the students and staff were black. Bush was in Harlem to make the case for charter schools, a concept so new to New York that one of the children he used as a campaign prop told reporters that “the Sisulu School is the first charter school in the world.” That might have gotten by Dan Quayle, but Bush caught it and smiled. Bush has gotten used to kids in this campaign. He spends so much time reading aloud in elementary school reading circles that one begins to wonder if he’s making an attempt to catch up. Six weeks earlier, a schoolchild had asked the Governor for the title of a book he had read when he was a child. Put on the spot, he mentioned a sports biography, said his mother “used to make him read,” and finally admitted that he couldn’t recall a specific title. But there was no reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar today. Nor was there an opportunity for children to ask questions. Readers of The New Republic might recall, as reported by John Judis, that a child at a Baltimore summer program for inner-city children asked Bush if he would support an increase in the minimum wage. Bush was caught by surprise and gave the child a dumbed-down lesson in Chicago School Economics, saying he feared a minimum wage would “price workers out of jobs.” In Harlem, Bush praised charter schools. Pataki did the same. Reverend Floyd Flake, a New Yorker by way of Houston, praised charter schools and thanked “his homeboy” for coming from Austin to Harlem to lend his support. Charters are different from Alliance schools and voucher programs. Voucher programs \(which take tax money and give it to students rare. Cleveland and Milwaukee host the two biggest experimental voucher programs in the nation. Alliance schools are labor-intensive attempts to improve existing public schools by providing additional funding for teacher training, enrichment programs before and after school, and extensive community involvement. Not surprisingly, they are the most successful educational innovation in Texas and the most demanding on parents and teachers. Bush tends to favor charter schools, mainly because of their strong appeal to the religious right. Charters are non-profit corporations that apply for state funding. In Texas they are remarkably easy to set up, which perhaps explains why $350,000 of taxpayer money was lost at one Waco charter, while another took the state money it applied for and never got around to opening its doors. On the campaign trail in San Antonio This is the first year for charter schools in New York. Reverend Flake said that, as a black man, he had crossed a line and supported Governor Pataki because he had vowed to implement a charter program. The principal spoke. The first grade teacher did a teaching demonstration. Those in the back of the room, meanwhile, were treated to the sound of fresh spin at the moment of creation. Bush media man Mark McKinnon laid it on with particular finesse for someone who could appreciate it: former Clinton spin-doctor-cum news analyst George Stephanopoulos. The diminutive Stephanopoulos must have seen something of himself in the equally short and smooth McKinnon, and he appeared to like what he saw. Left Field began to understand why the roadweary reporter wanted to go home. This is a white event,” the same reporter said after a hundredblock descent into mid-town Manhattan, where Bush was delivering an education policy speech to the Manhattan Institute the rightwing think tank that has provided part of the intellectual ammunition for “compassionate conservatism.” The crowd in the Sheraton ballroom was very white, and just badly enough dressed to be easily identified as part-time public policy intellectuals. The food and service were stunning, with waiters scrambling about with roast pork and potatoes on silver serving platters. It did seem cheesy to make the guests from the Sisulu School sit at the back of the room and eat at hastily set-up tables, near the reporters who ate box lunches \(chicken Dijon sandwiches Bush’s speech was a bit flat, by his standards. But it was new and it was about policy not his strong suit. He borrowed a page from his 1994 See “Bush,”page 7 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 29, 1999