THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||May 8, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE DELAWARE STATE LEGISLATURE
12:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor. I took good notes-- no children on a child care waiting list, all poor four-year-oldsin Head Start, every classroom wired. I'll be saying that now everytime I go to another city or another state -- I'll be saying, ifDelaware can do it, why can't you. And I thank you. (Applause.)
I want to thank the Governor, and Senator Sharp, SpeakerSpence, Lt. Governor Minner, the members of the legislature, thejudiciary, the state officials who are here; former governorsPeterson and Trivett, and other distinguished citizens of this state;Mr. Mayor. I'm delighted to be joined today by the Secretary ofDefense, who is going with me to Dover Air Base when we finish hereto thank our airmen and women there for their distinguished service,and who has also been a leader in education, because the Departmentof Defense-run schools all over the world for American children -- byour wonderful Secretary of Education, Dick Riley; by Mickey Ibarra,the Director of our Office of Inter-governmental Affairs; and others.We are all delighted to be here.
And I'd like to say a special word of appreciation toCongressman Castle for coming up here with me. He's an old friend ofmine. We worked together on welfare reform more than a decade agonow. I have been trying to decide, when Mike and Tom changed jobs,which one really got the promotion. (Laughter and applause.)
I am delighted to be the first President ever to speakhere. The others did not know what they were missing. (Applause.)I love your Capitol Building. I like the feel of your legislature.I like the size of your legislature. (Laughter.) I wonder if itwould take a constitutional amendment to reduce Congress to thissize. (Laughter.) It's a wonderful idea.
And I like the fact that the first state in the nationis leading in doing the nation's first business of educating ourchildren. I've come here to talk about that work, why it is -- inthe states and in many communities around the country, and must be inWashington the work of both Republicans and Democrats -- why it mustbe a national crusade to give our children the world's besteducation.
We have a history of putting nation above party when thenation's security and future are at issue. We did it for 50 years,which is why the Cold War turned out the way it did. The traditionwas deeply honored by Secretary Cohen, who left a distinguishedcareer in the United States Senate as a Republican Senator from Maineto join our administration, and he is performing well for theAmerican people as Secretary of Defense.
It is a tradition embodied by your Senators, Bill Rothand Joe Biden, who led the recent stunningly successful effort toexpand NATO to include Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. Andyou should be very proud of both of them. (Applause.)
And I have seen it, having had the opportunity to workfor years now with Mike Castle and Tom Carper when they were in thosejobs in succession, on welfare reform, on child care, on theeducation of our children. And you can be very proud of both ofthem.
And Delaware, maybe because it's a small state and maybebecause I came from a small state and was often ridiculed for it innational politics -- my experience is that maybe because we'resmaller, people learn to treat each other as people. They learn tolisten to people on opposite sides of the aisle. They learn thatthey don't have all the answers and that everybody's got a valuableperspective, and that in the end, we all have to get together and dosomething that moves our country or our state or our communityforward. And for all of that, I am very grateful to the State ofDelaware.
Thomas Jefferson once said of your state that, "Delawareis like a diamond; small, but having within it inherent value." Ifhe were today, here, giving this speech, he might say, being as hewas a modern thinker, Delaware is like a silicon chip --(laughter) -- small, but having within it enormous inherent value;namely, the power to shape the future.
You have always looked to the future, from the time youdid become the first state to ratify the Constitution. It was thebeginning of many firsts: Delaware was the first state to produce atransatlantic iron steamship. Then there was the first commercialtelephone call between an airplane and a moving car, 100 years later.Some of us would probably like it if telephone calls on airplanesand cars were not possible. (Laughter.) All the way to theremarkable innovations now being dreamed up in the Dupont Labs.
All of this is dramatically changing the world. TheChairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, came by the WhiteHouse for one of our periodic meetings a few days ago, and we weretalking about this incredible economy. And he said, you know, wereally are living in an economy of ideas. He said, there is ameasure of a nation's output in wealth compared to its physicaloutput, the literal physical density of all the goods that areproduced. He said, the measure is more skewed now than ever before.There is hardly any increase in the mass of what we're producing, butthe wealth of what we're producing is exploding. Why? Because ideasare driving the increase in the wealth of the nation.
Today we learned that our unemployment rate has droppedto 4.3 percent, the lowest since 1970. (Applause.) That isparticularly impressive in light of the fact that inflation now isthe lowest in more than 30 years, homeownership is at an all-timehigh, the welfare rolls are the lowest in 27 years, the crime rate isthe lowest in 24 years.
Our social fabric is mending. We saw that teenpregnancy had had a substantial drop for the second years in a row,something I know that the Governor has been passionately committedto. Our leadership in the world is still unrivaled, although we seemsometimes to be in some doubt about it here at home.
In Delaware your unemployment is all the way down to 3.4percent. You've had tens of thousands of new jobs, twice the rate ofnew business growth as five years ago.
The thing I would like to say about all this is, no onecan claim full responsibility for it. There was not a totallycoordinated strategy, but it did not happen by accident. America hasbeen on the same page, from our strategy in Washington to balance thebudget, invest in our people, and expand trade -- to theentrepreneurs, to the scientists and technicians, to the teachers inour schools and the people who run our business, and the folks whowork in our factories. We have been on the same page. Good thingsdon't happen by accident, even when millions -- even hundreds ofmillions of people are responsible.
And we must be on the same page when it comes toeducation. Before I get into what I want to say about education, Iwant to make a point I tried to make in the State of the Union. I'vehad a lot of people -- people who are primarily political people,good people, but people who normally think about things in politicalterms -- say to me, well, you know, why don't you just relax andstart playing golf three times a week. I mean, you've got lowunemployment, low inflation, people are suspicious of government, whydon't -- just don't do much and everybody will be happy. There is ananswer to that. And the answer is that might be a decentprescription for a static time, but in a dynamic time, where thingsare changing very rapidly, the fact that things are good in themoment does not guarantee they will be good five months or five yearsfrom now, because they're changing. So you have to keep working tostay ahead of the curve. And those of us in public life have to workno less than entrepreneurs do.
If you go to Silicon Valley, you don't see anybody outthere sort of laying down on the job just because the stock pricesare high, because they know how dynamic the world is. And there is asecond answer, which is that we still have some very profoundchallenges that, if left unmet, will come back to haunt us in the21st century. What are they? I can only tell you what I think theyare. I think, first of all, in Washington we have to reform ourmajor programs of social cohesion -- Social Security and Medicare --for the needs of the 21st century and for the reality that the babyboomers are going to retire and when they do, there will only beabout two people working for every one person drawing SocialSecurity. The present systems are unsustainable as they are. Wehave to change them, consistent with our values and the real facts.
Two, we have to prove that you can grow the economywithout destroying the environment. And we have to convince peoplein developing countries that they can and to embrace new technologiesto do that.
Just a few days ago I was out in California at alow-income/moderate-income housing development which is cutting by 40percent the energy usage on low-income housing, using solar panelsthat are now those big, heavy things you've seen on the roof, butthat look just like ordinary shingles -- using windows that keep overhalf the heat in in the wintertime and over half the heat out in thesummertime and still let more light in, and other basic things likethat. We have to prove that we can make environmental preservationand economic growth go hand in hand.
The third thing we've got to do is to bring the spark ofenterprise to poor inner-city communities and rural communities,including Native American ones that haven't felt it. The fourththing we have to do is to prove that we can live together as oneAmerica in an increasingly diverse society. The fifth thing we haveto do, I would argue, is to prove that we can lead the world afterthe Cold War in a consistent, firm way toward peace and prosperityand freedom and democracy.
But none of that will matter if we don't save ourchildren. And that's what I want to talk about today -- only oneaspect of it, but in some ways the most important one. And Delaware,again, is leading the nation. So I may be preaching to the choir,but that's not all bad. I'll polish the sermon and see if I dobetter in other places. (Laughter.)
The condition of education in America and the importanceof it and the impact it's going to have on all our futures, as wellas all our children, demands action from all of us, in Washington, instate capitals, in communities all across the country. Many of ourgreatest challenges don't fall under the authority of Washington, norshould they. I have supported giving states more authority in thearea of welfare reform and in many other areas. Secretary Riley hascut by two-thirds the burden of regulations coming out of federaleducation aid. We started two new programs, Goals 2000 andSchool-to-Work, without a single new federal regulation.
The federal government can't do all this. Some of ourmajor challenges don't even fall primarily under state government,nor should they. The power and the responsibility of America to meetthe challenges of the 21st century rests with all levels ofgovernment and with all sectors of society. Sometimes more with theprivate sector; sometimes more with its most fundamental unit, theAmerican family. And that is as it should be.
But just because responsibility and power are disperseddoesn't mean that we don't all have to ask ourselves, what power dowe have to have a positive impact; what is our responsibility? Andthen we have to move, because a revolution in education will notoccur by accident anymore than the revolution in the American economyhas occurred by accident, even though there will be millions ofpeople working on it and we may not all be calling each other on thephone every day.
Yesterday I talked to mayors from all over the country,I received their report on what they think should be done. Theiragenda is very much like yours and very much like mine.
I suppose that I've spent more time on education thanany other thing in my 20 years and more in public life now. Nearly10 years ago, when I was a governor of my state, I stayed up almostall night down at the University of Virginia at President Bush'sEducation Summit, working with Republican governors to write goalsfor education for the year 2000. It was clear then, it was clear wayback in 1983, when the Nation At Risk report was issued, and it iscertainly clear today, that if we are going to prepare our childrenfor the 21st century we cannot hope to do it unless we can say with astraight face, we are giving them the best education in theworld. Not just a few of them, but all of them.
And we can all say, well, we can't be responsible forevery teacher, we can't be responsible for every principal, we can'tbe responsible for every home, we can't be responsible for everyunmotivated child. That's all true, but we can play the odds.Secretary Cohen runs, arguably, the most effective organization inthe entire United States -- not every soldier, not every airman, notevery Marine, not every sailor is a stunning success, but they've gota pretty good system. And it didn't happen by accident. And weshould take that as our responsibility.
It seems to me the keys are high expectations, highstandards, and high performance, fueled by more opportunity, moreaccountability, and more choice. Secretary Riley and I have workedat this for more than five years. In one area, we have beenespecially successful and widely supportive across partisan lines andin states and local communities. We've opened the doors to highereducation wider than ever before.
The Balanced Budget Act I signed last year representedthe greatest expansion of college opportunity since the G.I. Bill waspassed 50 years ago, with college tuition tax credits, including the$1500 a year HOPE Scholarship for the first two years of college,education IRAs, expanded Pell Grants, deductibility of interest onstudent loans, 300,000 more work-study slots, another 100,000 youngpeople earning education credits by serving in the national serviceprogram, AmeriCorps, and lifetime learning credits for adults whohave to go back to school.
All of these things together mean that any American whois willing to study and work hard can get an education in college,and that is very important. It will change the face and the futureof America. We learned in the 1990 Census that Americans, youngerAmerican workers who were high school dropouts, high school graduatesor who had less than two years of post-high school education, werelikely to get jobs where their incomes went down over time comparedto inflation. Those that had at least two years of post-high schooltraining were likely to get and keep jobs where their incomes wentup. So that was fundamentally important, and we can all be proud ofit. And many states have done more to try to give scholarships andmake college more affordable, and that's important.
The Senate just this week -- and I want to complimentthem -- passed 91-7 what I have called "the G.I. Bill for Workers--it basically consolidates this incredible tangle of federaltraining programs into a skills grant, so that if a person isunemployed or underemployed and eligible, you just get basically theskills grant and then you decide where to take it. Since nearlyevery American lives within driving distance of a community collegeor some other very efficient institution, we no longer need thefederal government micromanaging the definition of all these trainingprograms, and we don't need anybody in the way of it.
Now, we have some provision, particularly that thegovernors wanted who live in rural areas -- who have lots of peoplein rural areas that may not have readily available services, but thisis very important. And we've got to resolve the differences now inthe House and the Senate bill and pass it. This is a huge thing.And the Congress can be proud of it and the country can be proud ofit.
But with all that said and done, I don't think there isa person here who would dispute the following two statements: Wehave the best system of higher education in the world. We do nothave the best system of elementary and secondary education in theworld. You don't have to criticize your favorite teacher, you canhonor the PTA leaders and the school board members -- no one believesit's the best in the world. And until it is, we can't rest. That isthe bottom line.
The budget that I have presented, which is a balancedbudget, has the biggest commitment in history from the federalgovernment to K through 12 education. But we all know that's lessthan 10 percent of the total. Still, I think it's important that thenational government focus on results, because things don't happen byaccident. I think we should focus on high standards, realaccountability, more choice, and, finally, I'd like to say a wordabout safe schools, because that is a problem in some parts of ourcountry.
First, there's no substitute for standards. I want tocompliment Delaware for what you're doing. This week, 3rd, 5th, 8thand 10th graders all over the state are participating in your newassessment process to see how well they're doing in reading, writing,and math. And you're going to add other subjects, the Governor toldme, in the next couple of years. You also have done something thatmay give us a key to how to solve the national issue, which is thatabout a quarter of your exam questions are apparently taken from theNational Assessment of Education Progress, which is a national testmost states participate in, but by definition, it's only given to arepresentative sample of students, not all students. I complimentyou on that. I think that is a brilliant reform.
And I think it's important that we find a way to havenational standards and exams at least in the basics. It is veryimportant -- Secretary Riley and I were talking on the way out, hewas talking about South Carolina still have quite an old state test.We had some old state tests when I was Governor of Arkansas. Ourkids just knocked the top off of them -- the same test we'd beengiving for years. And then when we took a national test that wascurrent, we didn't do so well. So without in any way undermininglocal control of the schools or the constitutional responsibility ofthe states for education, we need to have a set of nationalstandards, and an accountability system which tell us all honestlyhow we're doing.
We're working hard now with an independent nonpartisanboard -- the acronym known to all the education experts in theaudience is the NAGB Board. We've got Republicans and Democrats onthe board and people -- I don't even have any idea what theirpolitical affiliation is -- all of whom are simply committed toeducational excellence. And we want to find ways to coordinate withthe states and the state tests to avoid unnecessary costs andburdens. You may have found a way to do it in Delaware, by having atest that is both rooted in your state standards and encompassingnational questions. But it's a very good start.
The second thing we have to do, and I understand theGovernor said you were debating that, that may be tougher, is figureout what the accountability system is. Now, a lot of these questionsshould definitely be decided by people at the state and the locallevel. But let me, first of all, say that no test is worth a flipunless there is some consequences -- not just negative ones, butpositive ones; not just what you do to the students, but what therest of us have to do for the education system based on theconsequences of the test.
We have to start by demanding accountability from thestudents, and I strongly believe that we should end the practice ofso-called social promotion everywhere in the country. (Applause.)For many years there was a current theory in America that, well, ithurt a child's self-esteem too much to be held back and the childcould maybe pick it up next year. And besides that, children dolearn at different paces. That is absolutely true, especially in theearly years, the dramatically different learning patterns of childrenin the early years.
Then sooner or later, somehow, parents figured out thatone reason kids dropped out of school in the 9th or 10th grade isbecause the material was going over their heads, it didn't meananything to them, so why should they sit around, because they weren'table to do the work. And then even the kids figured out that being20 years old and not being able to fill out an employment applicationand not being able to even read your high school diploma was farmore destructive of self-esteem than spending another year in somegrade along the way.
Then, school districts began to figure out that theydidn't necessarily have to hold people back if they had properafter-school help and a little help in the summer -- where a lot ofkids having learning problems forget huge chunks of what they learnedthe year before.
So we're now kind of coming to grips with this. I haveoften talked about the Chicago system; it probably had the mostwidely-condemned school system in the country because they had astrike every year whether they needed it or not, for one thing, andbecause they weren't producing results. Now, the Chicago summerschool system -- they've ended social promotion, you have to go tosummer school if you fail the test and you want to go on to the nextgrade -- their summer school is the fifth biggest school district inAmerica. The summer school. They have thousands of children goingto school after school so many hours that thousands of them actuallytake three hot meals a day in the schools, in an inner-cityenvironment where they're safe, they're not getting in trouble andnobody's hurting them.
Now, if a place that has those kinds of challenges cantake them on, everyplace in America can take them on. I've askedCongress to pass what we call education opportunity zone legislation,that will basically give extra resources to schools in poorcommunities if they will insist on high standards in socialpromotion, demand performance from students and teachers, andactually support the kids that are in trouble and give them the extrahelp they need. I hope Congress will pass it.
Again, I say, in many ways we're following your lead.And I urge you to have a big, vigorous debate on this -- what are theconsequences of this exam. And I wouldn't presume to tell you whatto do, but I can make two observations based on 20 years of working,and hours and hours and hours spent in classrooms listening toteachers and watching things unfold.
One is, nobody will take your system seriously unlessthere are consequences. Two is, if there are consequences, whateveryou decide they are, they cannot be exclusively negative ones,they must also be positive ones, because you have to believe that--in order to believe in democracy, you have to believe that almosteverybody can learn almost everything they need to know to make thiscountry run right, which means almost everybody in the world cansucceed in school. And if they're not, it's probably not entirelytheir fault. So there should be consequences -- some of them shouldbe negative, but there must be positive ones as well. And I wish youwell and I can assure you the rest of us are going to be watching.
The next thing I think we have to do is to develop anddemand accountability and performance from teachers, but also supportthem. I had the great pleasure this week -- or last week -- ofhosting the Teachers of the Year at the White House. And that's oneof the happiest days of the year. You'll never find 50 more upbeatpeople than the teachers that are selected Teachers of the Year. Andyou talk to these people, and you can't imagine that there's everbeen a problem in American education.
The man who was named National Teacher of the Year is ateacher from Virginia who teaches history and social studies and whomakes his kids role-play. So they play ancient Athenians andSpartans debating the Greek wars. They play Jefferson and Adamsdebating each other about fundamental questions of what the realnation of the Union that we all belong to is. I mean, it wasexhilarating.
Those are the kind of teachers that we wish all ourchildren had all the time. And I think we need to do more to rewardteachers who strive for excellence. One of the things that we can doat the national level that I hope you will support, that Tom andMike's former colleague, Governor Jim Hunt, has worked his wholecareer on, is to support the master teacher program, the NationalBoard for Professional Teacher Certification. It's a completelyvoluntary thing which qualifies teachers based on, number one, theircomplete academic preparation for the course they're teaching; and,number two, their success in teaching; and thirdly, I might add,their ability to help other teachers improve their teaching skills.
Now, today there are only a few hundred master teachersin America. My balanced budget contains enough funds to certify100,000 master teachers. When we get one of these teachers in everyschool building in America -- every school building in America --going to the teachers' lounge, going to the faculty meetings, talkingto the principals, it will change the culture of education inAmerica. Every other profession in the country just about hasnational board certification. And believe me, this is a good thingthat is a worthy investment. (Applause.)
Finally, let me say, I because that if teachers don'tmeasure up after getting all the support and help they need, thereought to be a swift process -- fair, but swift; it should not beendless -- to resolve the matter in a satisfactory way. Becauseyou're not doing anybody any favors -- no one -- fundamentally,nobody is happy doing something they're not good at. You can nevermake me believe anybody is really happy when they know deep downinside they're not doing the job. So there has to be some systemthat is perfectly fair to every teacher, but doesn't take from now tokingdom come to resolve the matter in a way that allows the educationsystem to go forward.
Now, I also think as we demand responsibility forresults from the schools, we have to give the tools they need to thestudents and the teachers. I've said that, and I will say it again.Let me just mention one or two things. First, smaller class sizes.Children in some classes in America are in classes that are so bigand crowded, there is no way any teacher -- I don't care how good heor she is -- can deal with all the challenges that are presented --where classes are so big where the students are barely known by nameto the teacher, much less the particular circumstances of theirlives. Given the fact that so many kids have so many troubles today,it's very, very important. In classrooms like this, teachers areoften forced to teach to the middle, leaving both the best kids andthe most troubled kids behind.
The Department of Education and Secretary Riley todayare releasing a report on class size and learning, basicallyreaffirming what Hillary and I have long believed. We adopted veryrigorous class sizes for our state 15 years ago. When class sizes godown enough, learning goes up -- that's what the report shows --especially in the early years. And when children come fromdisadvantaged backgrounds, small classes can make an even greaterdifference.
Let me just give you a few examples from the study. InTennessee, test scores were consistently higher among students thatwere in classes of fewer than 20 students. These children kept theedge even when they moved into larger classes in their later years ofschooling. From Wisconsin, North Carolina, and classrooms across thecountry, other studies confirmed the same findings.
Governor Carper and many of you here today are trying toreduce class size. I just want to encourage you and tell you that Ihave presented to the Congress a plan to do the same thing, whichwould not in any way conflict with what you're doing, but will enableyou to get some funds to support it.
Today, I'm sending legislation to Congress cosponsoredby Senators Murray and Kennedy and Congressman Clay that will makeclass size reduction a national goal and if enacted, would helpschool districts to hire another 100,000 teachers, which is about thenumber necessary, properly distributed across the country, to give usaverage class size of 18 in the first three grades. (Applause.)
It would also require the new teachers to passcompetency exams to make sure they have the training and preparationthey need. Many states now require this anyway.
The second thing I'd like to say is Delaware may be theonly state now where every classroom is wired -- but every classroomshould be wired. You remember, I'm sure, a few years ago, the VicePresident and I went to San Francisco and got with a lot of peoplefrom the big computer companies and said that we wanted to try towire every classroom and library by the Year 2000. And we are makinggreat headway. We've got more than twice as many classrooms andlibraries wired today as we did just three and half years ago when wedid that. We have in the budget now funds to continue this urgentnational priority. I hope that will pass.
But, finally, let me say, believe it or not, we've gotan enormous percentage of the school buildings in this country areill-equipped to take the wiring because they're so old. We havecities in this countries with average school buildings -- averageschool buildings -- over 65 years old and in terrible shape. I wasin a small, growing district in Florida the other day where therewere not one, not five, but 17 trailers outside the main schoolbuilding there for the kids.
Now, when you come to work here every day in thisCapitol it makes you feel good, doesn't it? It's a beautiful
building and you've obviously put a lot of funds into restoring it,and it makes you feel good. It say you're important -- it matters tobe a member of the Delaware legislature. One of the ways you knowwithout anybody telling you is you come into this nice building andit's important. And if grown-ups are affected by their surroundings,children are even more so.
What does it say to an inner-city kid from a poor familyif they go to a school building every day and one of the whole floorsis closed because for want of repair? What does it say about howimportant those children are if every day they walk through the frontdoor and they look up and see three or four broken windows? Whatdoes it say if the blackboard is only half there because it's beencracked? What about the kids in the crowded school districts?
You know, the first year or two, if you show up andthere are a lot of house trailers, it's kind of exciting because itmeans you've got a growing district and a lot of stuff going on.After five or six years, it means things aren't getting better. It'sa very different message. And the important thing is not whether thebuildings are old or not; it is whether they are safe, clean, light,whether they send the message that this is a place where learning canoccur and this is a place where children are important.
Now, I think education is a part of the nationalinfrastructure. That's why I wanted the federal government to helpplaces who need it. Wire all the classrooms and libraries. And Ihave proposed for the first time that we help with the infrastructureneeds of school districts -- again, not in any way that wouldconflict with what any state or local school district is doing, butinstead to reinforce it.
This budget contains funds that would help us tomodernize 5,000 schools and build 1,000 new ones. It would be a verygood start on the incredible infrastructure needs of America'sschools. And for people who say it doesn't matter, just think howyou feel when you come through these doors every day. It doesmatter, and I hope we can pass it. (Applause.)
The third thing I'd like to emphasize very briefly isthat we need greater choice in our schools. We do need morecompetition. You mentioned the Charter School of Wilmington,Governor, and other charter schools in your state. When I waselected President in 1992, there was only one charter school in theentire country -- public schools that tailor their programs to meetthe needs and demands of their customers -- the students and theirparents. Since then, I've done everything I could to support them.
Today, there are 800 charter schools, 32 of our 50states authorize them. Just last week in an overwhelming bipartisanvote, California voted in the legislature to create another 100charter schools a year in our largest state. That's great, greatnews -- 100 a year. They had 150 cap, I think, on the whole state.They blew off the cap and said, this is working -- and I've been insome of them out there, they are working -- we want 100 a year.
Now, my goal is to have 3,000 by the year 2000 in thewhole country, and I have presented a budget to Congress which wouldgive communities around the country any start-up funds they need todo this. It's not so easy to do if you've never thought about it andnever done the work and if you come from a place with limitedresources. So I did present some money in the budget to do that.But I hope you will support that.
Delaware has been at the forefront of the charter schoolmovement. It is a good, good thing to do, along with havingstatewide public school choice plans. And I applaud you for yours.
The fourth thing I'd like to talk just a little about isschool safety. You know, it's pretty hard to learn if you feelinsecure. One of the main reasons that I supported the schooluniform movement, not as a mandatory thing but when people needed it,was that I thought it would make our schools safer. And I've beenaround the country and seen a lot of schools that had terriblediscipline problems. And we're worried about the safety of the kidsgoing to and from school. And in every case where they had aterrible problem and adopted a uniform policy, it made a bigdifference. We want to do more to ensure our children's safety. Wewant to make sure that our children are exposed to teachers and teamleaders, not drug dealers and gang leaders. (Applause.)
There are a lot of things we can do. Let me justmention one thing. We are trying in this budget to give states andcommunities more funds to support even wider and more extensiveafter-school programs, not only because they're importanteducationally -- which they are, and that's their primary mission --but because almost all kids get in trouble after school lets out andbefore the folks get home from work. A huge percentage of juvenilecrime is committed between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Andif we can have extensive after school programs, we can make ourchildren safer and our schools safer. Let me also --(applause)--even one hand is good on that. (Laughter and applause.)
Today, the Department of Education is releasing a reportwhich also shows we're doing a better job as a country in detectingguns in the schools. That's really good -- that's the good news.The bad news is there are a lot of guns in the schools -- and otherweapons. In 1997, more than 6,000 students were expelled forbringing firearms to school. But I think that means we must continueand bear down on this policy of zero tolerance for guns in ourschools. (Applause.)
And again, it works to prevent problems. TheSuperintendent of the Alexandria, Virginia, schools -- which, by theway, is now the most diverse school district in America -- FairfaxCounty has kids from 180 different racial and ethnic groups, speakingover 100 native languages. But because they have a rigorous zerotolerance program, they have cut suspendable offenses over the pastcouple of years by more than 40 percent. It works. And we can havethose results all over the country.
But let me say, going back to an issue you're debating,Secretary Riley asked all these school security experts what theythought we could do as a people, not just the federal government, tomake the schools safer. And they said, interestingly enough, one ofthe most important things we could do is to create the smallestpossible classes in the early grades, because the kids with problemswould be found by the teachers. And then the teachers and thefamilies and the counselors could work together to try to preventthese kids from getting in trouble in the first place. I thought itwas a stunning thing, amazing. (Applause.)
So Delaware is leading the nation, and the nation mustfollow. And we must, Republicans and Democrats together, allAmericans, make a commitment to a revolution in standards andaccountability, in choice and safety, based on high expectations,accountability, and performance. It will take all of our commitmentto do the job, but the challenge must be met because America can'tbecome what it ought to be if we don't.
We can do this. This is not rocket science. This is anaffair of the mind which most of us can comprehend. Fundamentally,it is also an affair of the heart. We know -- we know -- that thebest days of this country are still ahead. You may be the oldeststate, but you still want to have the longest future. And the onlyway we can do it is with this.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)