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Laura Bush Promotes Head Start En Route To N.C. Campaign Stop

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RALEIGH, N.C. — First Lady Laura Bush read to a groupof children in a Head Start program for migrant families on Friday,but the White House pets were the real hit of the event as far asthe kids were concerned.

In a mock-up classroom created in a maintenance building at theRaleigh-Durham International Airport, Bush read to six boys and twogirls from a book called "That's My Dog!" by Rick Walton.

That wasn't enough for the wiggling preschoolers, who werebrought in from the Raleigh suburb of Clayton where their programis based.

"You want to see MY dog?" Bush said. "Well, I brought somepictures of him. Were you hoping I'd actually brought him?"

They clustered around as she handed out small photographs ofSpot and Barney, the first family's spaniel and Scottie dogs, andof India, their cat.

Then it fell to the former teacher and school librarian tosettle down the excited preschoolers so she could talk to reportersabout congressional efforts to reorganize Head Start. "She's mypress spokesman," Bush said as she draped her arm around one jumpylittle girl.

Bush urged support for a House bill would give up to eightstates greater authority over Head Start so they can bettercoordinate it with other child-education efforts. That experiment --part of a broader update of the federal program -- has drawn intenseopposition from advocates who believe Head Start standards andspending will suffer.

Republicans, who hold a majority in the House, had planned tovote on the bill Friday, but pulled back when it became clear theymight not have enough votes.

Head Start is a federal preschool program for the poor that hashelped roughly 20 million children with social, behavioral,nutritional and literacy development.

Bush had been scheduled to visit the program's classroom inClayton on her way to a fund-raising luncheon in Raleigh, but thebrief event's location was changed to the airport to accommodateher tight schedule.

The $1,000 per person luncheon was held at a home on Lake View Drive -- not far from the home of Sen. John Edwards, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Attendees included Sen. Elizabeth Dole, former Sen. Jesse Helms, Wake County sheriff Donnie Harrison, Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, and Jim Cain, former president of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The luncheon was expected to bring in $300,000 for President George. W. Bush's re-election campaign.

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