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Democrats tout education plan

Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman let their limos trail behind as they boarded bright yellow school buses Tuesday to convince voters their $170-billion education package tops presidential rival George W. Bush's ideas for schools.

Seeking to underscore the breadth of their plan, the Democratic running mates motored across southern Ohio in buses, holding town meetings on the road and stopping at three schools.

"In the classroom, my focus is in the classroom," Gore said during a noisy tour of a Middletown high school, punctuated by cheers and shrieks from students. "Both Gov. Bush and I have an emphasis on new accountability and local control. The difference is my plan will start with accountability, but doesn't end there."

The two Democrats brought back into play one of their campaign favorites as they boarded separate buses to rumble across southern Ohio, a battleground state, echoing the bus caravan that helped elect Gore vice president in 1992. On the highway around them, traffic snarled.

"Is that a happy or unhappy one?" Lieberman asked as horns blared. "There are some happy people out there. Those thumbs are up."

The two candidates brought aboard student reporters, teachers and parents who quizzed them on topics including school immunizations, special education and school counselors.

"If you're in a class with 25 or 30 others it's easier to goof off, isn't it?" Gore asked one student, pushing for smaller classes.

At each of their school meetings, Gore and Lieberman dwelt in depth on their education proposals, which range from bolstering preschool to paying teachers more to making college tuition tax deductible.