President Clinton And Vice President Gore: Modernizing America's Schools
Today, President Clinton will call on Congress to pass legislation to provide communities new tools to modernize America's schools -- and to do it this year. President Clinton will be joined by Democratic leaders, parents, children, teachers and educators, labor representatives, and other members of a national grassroots coalition to build and repair our public schools. He will speak against the backdrop of a model schoolhouse that will be built today on the South Lawn of the White House, symbolizing our nation's commitment to quality education and the need for Congress to act on President Clinton's education initiatives.
THE CLINTON-GORE PLAN TO MODERNIZE AMERICA'S SCHOOLS: All students deserve a safe, healthy, and modern place to learn. President Clinton will urge the congressional leadership to pass school construction legislation this year. Specifically, he has proposed:
- $25 Billion in School Modernization Bonds. President Clinton has proposed $25 billion in school construction bonds that would be interest-free for school districts. The bonds would help build and modernize 6,000 schools nationwide. Districts could use these 15-year bonds to modernize existing schools as well as build new ones. Bond owners would receive federal tax credits rather than interest payments from school districts, allowing districts to borrow interest-free for school construction. A similar mechanism has been used successfully for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). In the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. Charles Rangel and Nancy Johnson's legislation has been co-sponsored by a bipartisan majority of the House, but the Republican leadership has refused to bring it to a vote. In the Senate, Sen. Charles Robb introduced a similar bill.
- $1.3 Billion for Urgent Repairs. President Clinton has also proposed a $1.3 billion initiative to make $6.7 billion in grants and interest-free loans for emergency repairs at 5,000 schools. Over five years, the initiative would help 25,000 schools repair roofs, heating and cooling systems, and electrical wiring. The assistance would be targeted to high-need districts. Within this $1.3 billion, the initiative would allocate $50 million for public schools with high concentrations of Native American students. Sen. Harkin and Rep. Clay have introduced urgent school repair legislation in Congress.
- Native American Schools. The President has won $293 million—a $160 million increase and more than double last year's level of $133 million—to replace and repair BIA-funded schools on reservations. This is the largest investment ever in a single year for BIA school construction and repair. These schools have an $800 million backlog in health, safety, and other critical needs. He also proposed to allocate $400 million of the $25 billion in School Modernization bonds for these schools over two years. The Administration supports passage of legislation to make the bonding proposal a reality for Indian communities.
THERE IS AN URGENT NATIONAL NEED FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION. Communities across the country are struggling to address urgent safety and facility needs, rising student enrollments, and smaller class sizes. Costly improvements such as the removal of asbestos and lead paint are needed in many schools just to meet basic health and safety standards.
- An estimated $127 billion is needed to bring America's schools into good overall condition, according to U.S. Department of Education. An estimated 3.5 million students attend schools that need extensive repair or replacement. (Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 1999, 2000)
- Our schools need over $300 billion to meet the costs of rising enrollments and installing a modern technology infrastructure as well as repairs, according to the National Education Association. (Modernizing Our Schools: What Will It Cost?, 2000)
- 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. (National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2000, p. 63).
- School conditions matter: A growing body of research links student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding. Good facilities are an important precondition for student learning, provided that other necessary conditions are also present.
THE 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 four continuing resolutions to give Congress more time to finish its work. In particular, Congress still has not completed an education budget. The current Republican budget plan 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 fail to help communities build and modernize 6,000 schools;
- $600 million for after-school programs, $400 million below the President's budget. The Republican plan would deny safe extended learning opportunities 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 the President's proposal for teacher professional development, recruitment, and rewards, and would not help ensure a qualified teacher in every classroom; and
- $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.
THE SCHOOLHOUSE WILL BE A SYMBOL OF THE NEED FOR MODERN SCHOOLS. Today, the Building and Construction Trades Unions, with members of the affiliated Washington, D.C., Regional Council of Carpenters, will build a model schoolhouse on the White House lawn. Designed to resemble the quintessential little red schoolhouse -- an age-old symbol of our nation's commitment to quality education -- the model school will call attention to the pressing national need to provide our children with safe, healthy, and modern places for our children to learn. It will also underscore the need for Congress to act on legislation to modernize our school facilities