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School Construction Event

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Saturday, February 14, 1998

I'm excited to be here today to announce new details about President Clinton's plan to help build and modernize thousands of new school buildings all across America -- to give our students the smaller class sizes, the modern technology, and the world-class education they need to succeed in the 21st century.

As President Clinton said in his State of the Union address last month, the Information Age is truly an education age. Right now, we are enjoying the strongest economy in a generation -- and it is driven by cutting-edge technology, research, knowledge, and learning. To make sure everyone can seize the opportunities of this new economy, we have to make sure every student has access to a world-class education.

Today, more than ever, that means modern classrooms, cutting-edge computer equipment, and state-of-the-art science labs. It also means smaller class sizes so that teachers can spend less time on discipline, more time on teaching, and assure our students the attention they need to succeed in school and beyond.

And yet, far too many of America's school buildings are old, crowded, and run-down. Many of our children are squeezed into cramped classrooms; too many others are forced to learn in trailers as schools do the best they can to handle overflow enrollments. And in the coming years, enrollments will be rising even higher -- straining our resources past the breaking point.

The fact is, every school district in America faces a burdensome backlog of building needs -- needs they just can't handle on their own. That's why President Clinton has proposed new tax cuts to pay interest on nearly $22 billion in bonds that will build and modernize thousands of new schools, all across America.

Today, I am pleased to announce that our aggressive plan to help communities and states build and modernize America's schools would cover the interest payments on more than $1 billion dollars of school construction bonds right here in the state of Florida. We are also announcing the benefits of our plan for every state in America, and for one hundred cities and counties that desperately need new and better schools. Here in Florida, and all across the nation, we will give our children the 21st Century schools, and the 21st Century education, they need to live out their dreams.

I also want to say that I am deeply concerned about the tornado damage that has affected the neighboring communities here. While I will have more to say on that subject later in the weekend, I am especially pleased that our school construction initiative -- if enacted -- could be used to help rebuild schools damaged by this terrible disaster.

Of course, the decisions about how to leverage this federal investment will be made righthere in your community. That's why we will sponsor -- beginning this spring -- community forums all across the country to highlight the need for school construction and modernization and to bring together communities to talk about the kinds of schools and classrooms you want for your children.

As a follow-up to these forums, I will join Secretary Riley in leading a national symposium on school design this fall. Sponsored by the Department of Education, several National Education Organizations, the American Institute of Architects, and the J.P. Getty Museum -- this symposium will consider the best ideas from your forums, add its own recommendations, and share its findings all over the country -- to give our communities a showcase of America's best, most innovative and cost-effective ideas for building the schools and classrooms of the 21st century.

This can be a golden moment for American education. A chance that comes along once every 40 or 50 years. The last large wave of school construction in America came in the 1950s -- when the baby boomers were starting school, enrollments were increasing, and a strong economy gave us the money we needed to invest in our future.

Forty years later, the last large wave of school construction is now crowded and aging, enrollments are at a record high and climbing higher, and we've been blessed with a booming economy that will give us the resources to build the next generation of schools.

This is a chance to act decisively for our children and our future. To build the schools that will serve us into the middle of the 21st century. Schools that will be more technologically advanced, more energy-efficient, and designed to help every child learn and succeed. Modern, well-equipped schools designed to work well for classes during school -- and work just as well for activities after school.

We must not let our most important community investments sit idle and unused while parents are still at work, and our children are searching the streets for something to do. Let's pioneer the designs that will help transform our schools into full-time centers of learning and community life.

Let's start right now -- sharing our best ideas about the kinds of schools and classrooms that can unleash our children's limitless potential, and help them create the 21st Century they deserve.

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