ATLANTA -- President Clinton accused Republicans on Friday of shortchanging schools to pay for huge tax cuts and said Americans should look at the GOP's budget and ask, "How does all this add up?"

"I think it's wrong to spend about $100 of the surplus on tax cuts for every $1 you spend on education," Clinton told reporters, university spokesmen and others at a gathering of the Education Writers Association.The president's remarks sharpened his election-year fight with Republicans over budget priorities and the nation's fast-growing surplus. The House and Senate approved a $1.83 trillion package Thursday that that includes big tax cuts as well as reductions in many domestic programs.

Clinton flew to Atlanta on the first leg of a six-day trip that is also taking him to California, New Mexico, Illinois, back to Washington and out again to Oklahoma City. He appeared weary at the outset, leaning on his lectern with both arms and holding his face in his hand as he spoke.

Before a late flight to Palo Alto, Calif., Clinton also was the speaker at two political fund-raisers for Georgia Democrats, a $300,000 bash for Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a $500,000 tribute to Rep. John Lewis, who was jailed and wounded during the civil rights struggle.

"John Lewis' life represents the central lesson I think we all have to learn in life," Clinton said. "We find more meaning in compassion than in judgment and we find more meaning in unity than division."

The president covered a lot of ground, from calling rocker Tina Turner his favorite philosopher to lamenting about the lingering controversy in the South over flying the Confederate flag.

"I'm sure they were murdered because I was there," the president said. "Those people lost their lives because I went to India and to Pakistan. And people who don't want their turmoil to be eased used my trip there as a pretext to highlight the difficulties" in the struggle between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

In a question-and-answer session after his education speech, Clinton said states should not prohibit gay youth groups in high schools. "I think it ought to be decided by the school districts," the president said.

In his address, Clinton criticized Republicans for clinging to the concept of school vouchers, which he called a "sideshow," and for passing budget bills he said "greatly underfund education."

In Washington, House Education Committee Chairman Bill Goodling, R-Pa., said Clinton was beholden to teachers' unions and had adopted a "Washington knows best" approach to education.

"I believe that Clinton may be preparing for his next career as school board president by running education policy as though he heads a national school board," Goodling said.

Clinton said GOP programs sound appealing but can't be paid for because Republicans want to earmark the money for tax cuts and defense spending increases.

"When anybody says anything -- they're for this, that or another thing -- you have to say, 'Well, how does all this add up?"' Clinton said, adding later: "Arithmetic is a very important element in politics and public life, and it is often ignored."

"I believe the majority of the people in the other party in Congress are still resisting the investments our schools need," Clinton said. "In the name of accountability, they're still pushing vouchers and block grants that I believe would undermine accountability."

Vouchers, long popular with Republicans, offer poor families a chunk of money that represents part of the cost of educating a child in public schools. The family can use the money to send a child to private or parochial school instead if the parents think their public school is not performing.

Ari Fleischer, a Bush campaign spokesman, responded to Clinton's remarks.

"As governor, George W. Bush cut taxes and invested in education while test scores in Texas went up. As president, Bill Clinton raised taxes while reading scores across the nation stagnated."

But Clinton boasted of progress. A new administration report said 67 percent of high school graduates now go to college, up 10 percent from when he took office in 1993.

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