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April 21, 1998: School Moderization - Investing in Our Children's Future

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Senator Moseley-Braun has offered an amendment in today's education bill that will help communities raise the funds to modernize 5,000 public schools. If we want our children to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century, then they must have 21st Century schools. I urge Congress to adopt this amendment right away. This is the right way to strengthen education in America.

- President Bill Clinton
April 21, 1998

Today, President Clinton meets with Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt to discuss upcoming legislative priorities for the remaining weeks of the 105th Congress. At the top of these priorities is education. After this meeting, the President will call on the Senate to vote, today, to adopt the School Modernization Amendment, an essential step for ensuring adequate support for school modernization.

A Moment For Action. Today, the Senate considers the Moseley-Braun School Modernization Amendment to H.R. 2646, the Education Savings Act for Public and Private Schools. The vote is critical in determining whether this Congress will act to provide adequate support for school modernization. With only a few working days left in session, this is the best remaining opportunity for the Senate to ensure that communities get the resources they need to enable our students to learn in safe, modern, well-equipped schools.

Addressing A Nationwide School Facilities Crisis. The School Modernization Amendment addresses a nationwide school facilities crisis. This year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our schools an "F" in its infrastructure report card this year, worse than in roads, bridges, mass transit and every other category of investment. One third of all our schools need major repairs. More than one half have major building problems. The School Modernization Amendment is especially necessary now, because:

  • The inventory of repair needs is large and growing. The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that the cost of bringing the nation's schools into "good overall condition" was $112 billion. The amendment will help states and communities stretch their education investments.
  • The problem is getting worse as enrollment surges. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that elementary and secondary enrollments will swell from 52.2 million in 1997 to 54.4 million in 2006. States and communities must act now to accommodate the larger number of students.
  • The condition of schools is related to student achievement. A growing body of research links student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding. The amendment will help modernize 5,000 schools and strengthen educational opportunity for all children.

Fighting For America's Working Families. The School Modernization Amendment replaces current education IRA provisions in H.R. 2646 that would reward wealthier families who would send their children to private school with or without this subsidy. In fact, the average per return tax benefit in tax year 2002 would be only $7 for taxpayers with children in public schools and only $37 for taxpayers with children in private schools. The IRA provisions do nothing to fix school buildings and build new ones at a time when public schools face record enrollment for years to come. This amendment creates a smart, effective investment that works at helping states and communities do more with less, by leveraging our money through zero-interest bonds for states and school districts to issue to finance capital improvements. Communities could issue up to $21.8 billion worth of these bonds.

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