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Urging Congress to Support America's Education Priorities

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Urging Congress to Support America's Education Priorities

Today, the White House will call on Congress to complete its work and send President Clinton a fiscally responsible budget that invests in America's key priorities -- especially the education of our children. In a speech at the National Press Club, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta will release a new Department of Education report demonstrating how federal support for after-school and summer school programs is enabling communities to create high-quality extended learning opportunities that improve academic achievement while keeping kids safe. He also will urge Congress to fund America's education priorities and heed the mounting evidence that the Clinton-Gore Administration's strategy of investing more in our schools and demanding more from them is making a positive difference for our children. To date, Congress has not produced a budget that: offers tax cuts and a school renovation initiative to help communities modernize crumbling schools; adequately funds after-school programs; reduces class sizes in the early grades; strengthens accountability for fixing failing schools; and helps put a qualified teacher in every classroom.

PROVIDING SUPERVISION AND ACADEMIC ENRICHMENT FOR "LATCH-KEY" KIDS. Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, federal funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers has increased from a $1 million demonstration program in 1997 to a $453 million initiative in 2000, with 3,600 schools currently providing extended learning opportunities for 650,000 students. However, the demand for high quality after-school and summer opportunities continues to outpace available resources, and last year only one in seven 21st Century Community Learning Center applications could be funded. Today, the White House will reiterate President Clinton's request for $1 billion in FY 2001 to more than triple the number of students benefiting from these programs, helping to provide after-school opportunities for more than one quarter of the nation's 8 million "latch-key" kids. The report released today outlines the progress being made in over 900 communities across the nation in providing safe and nurturing alternatives for children in the afternoon hours when they are most likely to commit or be the victims of crime. In addition to providing a safe haven for "latch-key" kids, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers provide students with access to homework centers, tutors, and cultural and recreational activities -- enabling students to boost their academic achievement and social skills. The findings highlighted by the Department's report include:

  • Virtually all 21st Century Community Learning Centers provide reading support, and more than 90 percent provide math support.
  • After-school programs are helping to boost student achievement across the country. In rural McCormick, South Carolina, 120 students would have been held back a grade if not for their after-school program, and almost three-quarters of students in a Brooklyn, New York, program improved their grades in one or more subjects by five points on a 100-point scale.
  • The peak hours for juvenile crime and victimization are between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Since the implementation of its after-school program, the community of Highland Park, Michigan, reports a 40 percent drop in juvenile crime in the neighborhood surrounding its 21st Century Community Learning Center.
  • Students who spend between one and four hours per week in extracurricular activities are half as likely to use drugs and one-third less likely to become teen parents. The Salem-Keizer district in Oregon has seen a substantial drop in alcohol and drug use since receiving a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, and a Plainview, Arkansas, community has seen the number of teen pregnancies drop from six in one year to zero since the 21st Century Community Learning Center established an abstinence program two years ago.
  • Some 90 percent of grantees partner with community-based organizations, thus raising community involvement in public schools.
  • Two-thirds of grantees operate substantial summer school programs in addition to their school-year program.
  • Fifty-five percent of 21st Century Community Learning Centers serve rural communities, and 45 percent serve inner-city communities.
  • Over 80 percent of voters agree that access to after school programs for all children is important, yet nearly two-thirds of voters report that it is difficult to find such programs in their communities.

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. However, 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 for the President's plan 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;

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