Washington President Bush urged lawmakers who return this week from vacation to act quickly on his legislation to raise classroom standards.
"Our educators need to get ready for the new accountability era that's coming to our schools," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Democrats responded that the proposed reforms will be meaningless unless Congress gives schools enough money to carry them out.
In an appeal to Congress, Bush added: "Send me a good education reform bill to sign, and send it quickly, so that our children will return next year to schools that prepare them for good jobs through many Labor Days to come."
The House and Senate in the spring each passed similar versions of the revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides most of the federal support for K-12 schools. Negotiators are working out a compromise between the two bills. Most of the provisions would not take effect until July 2002.
Both versions require that schools test students annually in math and reading in grades three through eight and once in high school. Students at schools in which scores do not improve could use federal money for tutoring or transportation to another public school.
In the Democratic radio address, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said Congress must give schools enough money to help students perform better on tests.
"While investment in education without accountability is a waste of resources, demanding accountability without making investments is a waste of time," she said.
The House and Senate versions of the bill differ dramatically in how much money they would provide. The Republican-controlled House proposed about $24 billion, while the Senate, run by Democrats, approved $33 billion.