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Friday, June 16, 2000


"I am proud of the progress that's been made in education in this nation. But if we think that we're going to build the future of our dreams, making kids go to school in places where they don't have computer labs or music rooms, they're suffocating, their buildings are being heated with coal, and their teachers are trying to teach 40 kids when they ought to be teaching 20, we're living in a dream world, and we need to do something about it to give them a better future."

President Bill Clinton
Friday, June 16, 2000

Today, in Queens, NY, President Clinton visited Abigail Adams School to highlight the urgent need to improve our nation's schools. The President called on Congress to pass his school construction proposals, including $25 billion in School Modernization Bonds and over $6.5 billion in Urgent School Renovation Loans and Grants to help communities nationwide modernize their schools.

HIGHLIGHTING THE URGENT NEED FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AND REPAIR. Abigail Adams School, an elementary school built in 1926, is over 150% of capacity. Overcrowding requires that the students take classes in the cafeteria, the auditorium lobby, and from teachers with carts, not classrooms. Schools across the country are struggling to address urgent safety and facility needs, rising student enrollments, and smaller class sizes. Studies show:

  • One-third of American schools need extensive repair or replacement;
  • The average public school was built 42 years ago. About one-third of public schools were built before 1970 and haven't been renovated since at least 1980;
  • Public elementary and secondary enrollment is expected to increase to a record 44.4 million elementary and secondary students by 2006;
  • Including the costs of rising enrollments and technology infrastructure, it is estimated that over $300 billion is needed to bring America's schools into good overall condition;
  • Poor physical building conditions and overcrowding can contribute to lower student test scores and have a negative effect on the work of teachers.

KEY ELEMENTS OF THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN. To provide all students with a safe, healthy, and modern place to learn, President Clinton proposed:

  • $25 billion in interest-free school construction bonds for school districts to help modernize 6,000 schools nationwide; and
  • Over $6.5 billion in grants and interest-free loans for emergency repairs at 5,000 schools, including repairs to roofs, heating and cooling systems, and electrical wiring, particularly in high-need districts.

REPUBLICAN BUDGET IGNORES THE NEEDS OF AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. In February, the Administration sent Congress a budget that makes investments in key education initiatives that work. On June 14, the House:

  • Rejected the President's $1.3 billion plan to help states and localities make emergency repairs to crumbling schools, and failed to act on his School Modernization Bonds proposal;
  • Passed a budget bill that fails to strengthen accountability and turn around failing schools, reduce class size, provide funds for emergency repairs and to renovate aging schools, sufficiently expand after-school opportunities, prepare more low-income students for college through GEAR UP, invest in improvements in teacher quality, and help bridge the digital divide.

Meanwhile, the House has so far this year passed tax cuts that would drain more than $550 billion from the surplus and cut domestic priorities by 9 percent.

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