President Clinton Calls on Congress to Act on America's Education Priorities
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Today, President Clinton will join Senator Daschle, Congressman Gephardt and the Democratic Caucus to call on Congress to complete its work and send him a fiscally responsible budget that pays down the debt while investing in America's key priorities -- especially the education of our children. The President will challenge the Republican leadership to not leave town without producing a responsible budget that offers tax cuts targeted toward working families -- such as our school construction initiative to help communities modernize crumbling schools -- and invests in key education initiatives, such as after-school programs; reducing class size, strengthening accountability for fixing failing schools; and helping put a qualified teacher in every classroom. The President also will call on the Republican leadership to act on other important priorities before adjourning for the year – including an affordable prescription drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries, a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights, a minimum wage increase, hate crimes legislation and a proposal to increase fairness in immigration laws.
REPUBLICAN BUDGET IGNORES AMERICA'S EDUCATION PRIORITIES. In February, President Clinton and Vice President Gore sent Congress a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that makes investments in key education initiatives. Three weeks into the fiscal year, the President has signed three continuing resolutions and Congress has yet to complete and send to the President 8 of 13 spending bills. In particular, Congress still has not completed an education budget, and is now neglecting America's priorities and loading spending bills with election-year, earmarked projects for special interests.
The Republican budget provides:
- No guaranteed funding for urgent school repairs, $1.3 billion below the President's budget. President Clinton's plan would help school districts repair roofs, heating and cooling systems, and electrical wiring. The Republican plan could deny much-needed renovations to up to 5,000 schools;
- $0 in new School Modernization Bonds, while the President's budget would support $25 billion in bonds. The Republican plan would prevent the modernization and construction of 6,000 schools;
- $600 million for after-school programs, $400 million below the President's budget. The Republican plan would deny safe extended learning environments to 1.6 million children by supporting 3,100 fewer centers in 900 fewer communities than the President's budget would;
- No guaranteed funding for class-size reduction, $1.75 billion below the President's budget. The Republican plan fails to ensure that school districts can hire 20,000 new teachers and support the 29,000 teachers already hired under the Class Size Reduction initiative, potentially denying smaller classes to 2.9 million children;
- $473 million to improve teacher quality, $527 million below the President's budget. The Republican plan would fail to fully fund support for teacher professional development, recruitment, and rewards, and would not help ensure a qualified teacher in every classroom;
- $0 for the Accountability Fund, $250 million below the President's budget. The Republican plan would deny resources to states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools and hold them accountable for results.
CONGRESS SHOULD COMPLETE WORK ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES. Republican Congressional leaders have also failed to pass targeted tax cuts for working families, an affordable prescription drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries, a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights, hate crimes legislation, or reform of our immigration laws. Congress also has made virtually no progress toward passing a minimum wage increase, despite a commitment from Speaker Hastert to do so. President Clinton will call on Congress to complete work on major priorities before adjourning to return to their districts to campaign for re-election, including:
- Pass Targeted Tax Cuts: President Clinton's package of responsible, targeted tax cuts provides more tax relief for middle-class families at less than half the cost of Republican plans. It would allow America to maintain our fiscal discipline, strengthen the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, invest in key priorities, and pay off the debt by at least 2012. President Clinton's fiscally responsible plan provides tax cuts that reward retirement savings, expand college opportunity, and help families with the rising costs of long-term care. To ensure that all Americans share in the nation's unprecedented prosperity, the President has proposed New Markets tax credits to spur investment in under-served communities across the nation.
- Increase the Minimum Wage. At a time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase before Congress would merely return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982. This small raise would help more than 10 million workers, including millions of women and hard-pressed families, make ends meet. Full-time workers would receive an annual raise of about $2,000 a year -- enough to pay for nearly 7 months of groceries or 5 months of rent.
- Provide an Affordable, Accessible Prescription Drug Benefit Option for All Medicare Beneficiaries. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate prescription drug coverage or none at all. In the context of broader reform that ensures that Medicare revenues are only used for Medicare, the President has proposed a voluntary, affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit for all beneficiaries. Beginning in 2002, it would provide prescription drug coverage that would have a zero deductible and cover half of all prescription drug costs up to $5,000 when fully phased in. It would limit all out-of-pocket medication costs to $4,000. This optional benefit would also provide negotiated discounts that would guarantee that Medicare beneficiaries no longer pay the highest prices in the marketplace. And, it would explicitly pay for the cost of prescription drugs in managed care plans beginning next year to ensure that they continue to offer this important benefit. Beneficiaries would be guaranteed access to all medically necessary drugs and their community pharmacies.
- Enact A Meaningful Patients' Bill Of Rights. The majority of the United States Senate supports passing a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership continues to support an approach that leaves over 135 million people without protections and does not assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients. The Norwood-Dingell legislation, endorsed by over 200 health care providers and consumer advocacy groups, is the only bipartisan proposal currently being considered that protects state-based accountability provisions already available under current law and includes: protections for all Americans in all health plans; protections for patients accessing emergency room care from financial sanctions; guarantees that assure access to necessary and accessible health care specialists; and meaningful enforcement mechanisms that ensure recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions.
- Pass Legislation to Prevent Hate Crimes. Congress should send the President meaningful hate crimes legislation to sign into law immediately. This legislation would enhance the Federal government's ability to prosecute violent crimes motivated by race, color, religion, or national origin and would authorize Federal prosecution of crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, or disability. There have been strong bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate on hate crimes. In June, the Senate voted 57-42 in favor of adding hate crimes legislation to the Defense Department authorization bill. In September, the House voted 232-192 to retain hate crimes as part of that bill. With these strong bipartisan votes there is no justification for failing to pass hate crimes legislation this year.
- Reforming Immigration Law. People who have been living in the United States for many years and have developed strong ties to their communities deserve the opportunity to normalize their immigration status, and families should be allowed to stay together while an adjustment of status application is pending. Congress should address these injustices in the immigration system by updating the registry date, amending the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) to ensure fairness for Central Americans, Haitians and Liberians, and reinstating Sec. 245(i). The President will insist that Congress enact these common-sense measures, supported by both business and fundamental fairness, this year.