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October 13, 1998

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School is almost out of session on Capitol Hill. I know members are eager to return home, and I know that there is an election coming up. But before Congress goes home to campaign, I urge them to put progress ahead of partisanship, step up to their responsibility, and make this critical investment in the future of our children, and our nation.

President Bill Clinton
October 13, 1998

Today, President Clinton visits the Forest Knolls Elementary School where he will discuss the need for Congress to pass his education agenda and support his plan for modernizing our schools so our children can learn in a world-class environment and prepare for the challenges of the 21st Century.

The Need To Reduce Class Size And Modernize Our Schools. As we move into the 21st century, it is crucial that our children have access to modern facilities and good learning environments. Our school systems are now educating record numbers of children -- 52.7 million began this school year, an all time high. Today, the average class size in grades 1-3 is 22, and a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) study found that the estimated cost of bringing the country's schools into good overall condition is $112 billion, with one-third of all schools in need of extensive repair.

Smaller Class Sizes And More Modern Schools Help Raise Student Achievement. The President is calling for reduced class sizes in grades 1-3 and a plan to help states and localities modernize or build 5,000 schools nationwide. Reports and studies show that:

  • Smaller class sizes, especially in the early grades, increases student achievement, reduces discipline problems, and increases instruction time for teachers in the classes surveyed;
  • Students in school buildings that were in poor condition had achievement 6 percent below students in schools that were in fair condition and 11 percent below students in schools that were in excellent condition.

A Presidential Commitment To Improving Our Nation's Schools. President Clinton is fighting for an education agenda that will:

  • Build or Modernize More Than 5,000 Schools. In order for students to learn and compete in the global economy, schools must be well-equipped and able to accommodate smaller classes. To help rebuild, modernize, and build over 5,000 public schools, President Clinton is fighting to ensure that this year's budget includes targeted federal school construction tax credits to help states and school districts in this task. This proposal maintains our fiscal discipline and is fully paid for within the balanced budget without taking one penny away from the budget surplus;
  • Reduce Class Size And Hire 100,000 New Teachers. The President is fighting for funding that would allow states and local areas to start hiring 100,000 new, well-prepared teachers to help reduce class size in grades 1-3 to a nationwide average of 18. Reducing class size in the early grades will help ensure that every child receives personal attention, gets a solid foundation for further learning, and learns to read independently and well by the end of the third grade.

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