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Feb 13, 5:26 PM EST

White House denounces GOP schools bill

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Friday pushed back against House Republicans who want to limit the federal government's role in education.

In a new report, the White House said a GOP House education bill would be a "huge step backward" and "virtually eliminate accountability" in making sure federal education money helps impoverished communities.

"After an economic crisis that hit school budgets and educators hard, we cannot just cut our way to better schools and more opportunity," the report states.

Last week, Republicans on the House Education Committee pushed through a bill that would leave it to states to decide how to improve failing schools and would replace several federal programs with a single, flexible local grant program. The legislation was considered an update to the bipartisan No Child Left Behind law signed in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

"It is disappointing the White House and powerful special interests are rallying against these commonsense reforms," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The White House counters that the legislation would enable states to divert federal education dollars to unrelated projects like prisons and sports stadiums.

In a conference call with journalists, a senior White House adviser stopped short of saying President Barack Obama would veto the bill. Cecilia Muņoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said the administration is hopeful the Senate will draft an acceptable bill that has bipartisan support.

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