MIAMI (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday criticized President Bush's education policy as doing little to help minorities and acknowledged that she is still searching for ways to raise minority student test scores.
More needs to be done to prepare children for school and to get parents involved in their education, Clinton said while visiting a historic black neighborhood during her first campaign trip to Florida since announcing her candidacy. She said Bush's No Child Left Behind Act isn't providing a solution for raising test scores.
``This achievement gap is deeply troubling to me,'' Clinton said. ``If we don't invest in our children, our society and our economy will decline. This is not just something nice to do, this is something that we have to do.''
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, spoke and took questions for an hour from the mostly black audience of 300 in the Liberty City neighborhood. The event was sandwiched between fundraisers in Tampa, Miami and Hollywood that were closed to the press.
The federal government can do more to help minority businesses by writing a road map for banks' roles in the communities, Clinton said.
``We've got to change our laws so that they inspire and motivate more lending institutions to look at how they can serve the entire community again,'' she said. ``We've got to get them to look at a community even if they are multinational banks and we can do that through regulation and law.''
Clinton also called for microlending programs and helping business owners to develop stronger business plans so they are more credit worthy.
The Liberty City event was a signal that Clinton is going to fight hard to keep black voters on her side in a primary race in which Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who is black, is gaining popularity.
``The black community is betwixt and between. We all love Clinton, but at the same time Obama has a lot of people who love him in the community, too,'' said Hans Ottinot, a 38-year-old Haitian-American lawyer who grew up in the neighborhood.
``She's showing us, 'Look, the black community has been a major supporter and I want to keep you as a major supporter.' It's a clear message. I don't think it was subtle,'' Ottinot said.
After the community meeting, Clinton attended a $100-per-ticket cocktail reception in Hollywood, which was followed by a reception at $2,500 per person.
Her campaign announced endorsements from Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, whose Broward County district is predominantly black.