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July 16, 1999

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American business would never tolerate factories built before the Great Depression and last renovated several decades ago. My plan says America cannot tolerate outdated schools, either. If we want our children to compete at a world-class level, they must have modern, world-class schools.

President Bill Clinton
July 16, 1999

Today, in Des Moines, Iowa, President Clinton addressed the urgent need for investment in school construction and modernization. The President highlighted his School Modernization Bond proposal, which provides $24.8 billion in tax credit bonds over two years to modernize up to 6,000 schools.

The Urgent Need for School Modernization. Communities across the country are struggling to address the issue of deteriorating and inadequate school buildings. School construction and modernization are urgently needed to address safety and facility requirements, accommodate rising student enrollments, help reduce class sizes, ensure accessibility, and equip students with the technology they'll need to compete in the 21st century. Nationwide estimates indicate:

  • The average public school is 42 years old, and school buildings begin to deteriorate rapidly after 40 years;
  • One-third of all public schools need extensive repair or replacement:
    • over 28,000 schools have inadequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems;
    • over 23,000 schools have inadequate plumbing; and
    • over 21,000 schools have inadequate roofs.
  • It would cost $112 billion just to repair existing schools; and
  • School enrollment is higher than ever. A record 52.7 million children are enrolled in elementary and secondary school today, and this number will climb to 54.3 million by 2008. 2,400 new public schools will be needed by 2003 to accommodate rising enrollments.

Highlighting Iowa's Need for School Modernization Funding. Speaking at Hiatt Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa, President Clinton addressed the urgent need to invest in school construction and modernization nationwide, and particularly in Iowa, based on the following:

  • 79% of Iowa's schools report a need to upgrade or repair buildings to good overall condition;
  • It is estimated that Iowa public schools would need $3.92 billion for construction and renovation; and
  • During the past decade, enrollment in Iowa schools increased by 27,320, and Iowa has a projected population growth rate of 7.8% from 1990 to 2015.

Providing School Financing with Tax Credit Bonds. President Clinton highlighted his School Modernization Bond proposal, which provides $24.8 billion in tax credit bonds over two years to help state and local governments pay for school construction and renovation of up to 6,000 schools. The President's proposal has an estimated cost of $3.7 billion over five years, and is fully paid for in his budget. The Republican alternative, which is part of the Republican tax cut proposal, would address the needs of only one-tenth as many schools, and could cause delays in construction and encourage risky investment of taxpayer funds.

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