THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||August 31, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
DURING EDUCATION ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
Herndon Elementary School
12:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say very briefly before Imove on, you probably know this because you talked about how yourschool was growing. But I believe Secretary Riley, I think it waslast year was the first year that we actually had a school class fromkindergarten through high school bigger than the baby boomgeneration. And this explosion of children into our schools hascreated enormous strains on school districts all across America.
I was in a school in Florida -- I believe it had 17trailers outside
THE SUPERINTENDENT: We have that beat, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: This was just one school, not a schooldistrict, and it was amazing. But there was an article in TheWashington Post and in other newspapers over the weekend about theteacher shortage in America, and I'm very concerned about it. Wehave two proposals: One is to put 35,000 teachers in the mostdifficult and underserved areas in the country -- it's part of ourbudget -- the other would put 100,000 teachers out there across thecountry in the first three grades, to try to keep class size downbelow 20. And I think those things are very, very important.(Applause.)
One of the things I'm hoping I can to is to persuade theCongress in the next month to embrace the idea that we clearly have anational obligation now to support what is a national phenomenon, theexplosion of the number of schoolchildren in our schools. So whenyou say what it did, it made me want to think about that.
I'd like to go on now to JoAnn Shackelford, because itseems to be a logical follow-up to what you about the diversity ofyour student body and teaching people to read and this SaturdayProgram, which I'm very interested in. It sounds to me likesomething everybody ought to be doing.
MS. SHACKELFORD: Thank you. First of all, I wanted totell you, welcome to our school. We're so excited you're here. MissFreeman is a hard act to follow, so I won't try. But I do have a fewthings to ask for. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Who picked this questioner? (Laughter.)
MS. SHACKELFORD: There's a couple. I'll be quick. Ourstaff, most of which are seated in the first three rows out here,firmly believe that all of our students can learn to read by the endof third grade, and they will then become lifetime learners, not onlyreaders. But to achieve this goal, we are very convinced that weneed smaller class sizes. (Applause.) And we also need interventionin the early grades before it's too late.
We have two programs here at Herndon that I'm going totalk a little bit about. The first one is one I know you're familiarwith from Arkansas; it's the Reading Recovery Program. ReadingRecovery teachers, there are two of us, work very closely withclassroom teachers, which is the key to build a program for thesestudents. And these are usually our lowest-achieving first-graders.And we build on their strengths and we make them become not only goodreaders, but lifelong readers. And we have been very successful herewith that program.
It's really the highlight of my day when I come to workand I spend that two hours with my four Reading Recovery students andwatch them learn to read; it's exciting. But because of our largesize -- here comes the asking part -- (laughter) -- and only twotrained Reading Recovery students, we're not able to reach all of ourstudents; we have a long waiting list of students that would like tobe, that need that support. So we would like to see this programexpanded in all of our schools across the nation. (Applause.)
The second program that's probably the dearest one to myheart is our Excel Saturday Program. We fondly call it here"Saturday School." And if you came to our library and our cafeteriaon any given Saturday, you would find about 90 of our students andabout 60 to 70 students from Herndon High School and other area highschools who have actually gotten out of bed -- (laughter) -- to comehere. And the high school students serve not only as the tutors, butas the mentors and as the role models for our students.
The teachers provide materials to help their academicskills, and we also try to encourage our English as second languagestudents develop their English proficiency. We have four or five ofour teachers every Saturday and four or five of the high schoolteachers here helping to provide guidance and encouragement for theprogram. So that is a large commitment from our staff and fromHerndon High School.
We feel like this is a winning program for everyone --not only for our students, but the high school students receive asmuch benefit as we do. One of the things that's fun to watch is theypractice the languages that they're learning at the high school onour native-speaking children and on our French immersion children.So they're practicing, and yet the children are the teachers. Italso gives them a wonderful opportunity to give back to theircommunity, which is so important.
At the same time, Miss Freeman talked a little bit aboutit, we capture the parents and we're able to provide -- discussparenting issues, and in my role we talk a lot about how important itis to read to children; but not only in English, but in your ownnative language. So that has been very beneficial. We alsotranslate the meetings into Spanish or any other language that isneeded that Saturday.
Now, what we would like is, we would like to be able toexpand this program to serve more students, provide transportationfor some of our students that aren't able to get here; we haven'tdone that in the past, and scholarships for some of our high schooltutors so that they can go on. Many of our high school tutors areEnglish as second language students themselves who have gone throughthe elementary school and are now in the high schools. So if we hadmore funds, we could do all of those things. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'd just like to make a couple ofobservations. First of all, I'll think about this high schoolscholarship thing. The only high school scholarships directly forservice, community service, we have are the ones that I announced atPenn State a couple of years ago, where we give a modest scholarshipthat's matched in the local community to one person for outstandingcommunity service in high school.
So we now have 1,000 colleges and universities providingreading volunteers through the America Reads Program to go intoschools to help young children learn to read, and most of them areWork Study students, but a lot of them are not eligible for WorkStudy and they just do it anyway. There may be something we can doon that and I'll think about it.
The other thing I'd say is that I'm a big fan of theReading Recovery Program. And if you look at the research, it hasabout the best long-term results of any strategy. But there is areason for it; it's very expensive because it's so labor-intensive.And it's something that maybe Secretary Riley wants to talk aboutthis a little bit.
We've discussed before that whether the generalizedassistance we give to school districts for supportive programs likethis, or the states which then the school districts get, should bemore focused. And we've tried not to sort of pick and choose amongthe various reading strategies because of the limited amount of moneyand the large number of programs under way in the country.
But there's no question that the Reading Recoverystrategy, particularly when you've got a lot of young people whosefirst language is not English, have had, I believe, the bestlong-term results, but it's because it's so labor-intensive and isquite expensive and it's something we need to look at.
Dick, you want to say anything about this?
SECRETARY RILEY: No, you said it correctly, that thefunds that we give out from the federal government, we really try tohave them flexible enough for you to use them for programs of thiskind, but that specific decision probably should be a local decision.But, frankly, this reading by the end of the third grade we think isprobably as important as anything in this country. And if a child ishaving difficulties, this concentration through the Reading RecoveryProgram just makes so much sense to meet that national goal.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe we should go on now to, sincewe're talking about this subject, to Maria Gorski, who is a parentliaison. And you talked about involving the parents, so talk alittle about that for us, Maria.
MS. GORSKI: Mr. President, welcome to HerndonElementary once again. We are aware of your busy schedule and weappreciate your time here with us today. My concerns are about ourchildren's parents who have two -- up to three jobs, and they don'thave enough time to help with homework for their children, because ofthe language barriers and the lack of time to have family unity.
As the parent-liaison, I have the opportunity to observeand learn how parents feel frustrated not being able to fullyunderstand the language, help their children and express theirconcerns about their children's education. Parents, through my ownexperience, have the willingness to learn the language and get betterskills to have a better future.
As you know, if they learn the language, betteropportunities, they can find better jobs and spend more time withtheir children. They have requested programs for after school andweekend tutoring for the children, and also for the parents, forthemselves. Please support our existing United Neighborhood Program,which is being run by Captain Smith of the Herndon Police fromHerndon and the volunteers from our community. It's a tutoringprogram that runs three nights as week, three evenings a week, from6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and the volunteers come and tutor thechildren.
I've been there a few times and the children, theirgrades improve a great deal. So far, it's been successful, but Isaid before, it's only -- runs with volunteers only. Please restorethe funding which is with support programs like ours, and allows themto work better to make our community stronger. As you know, thefuture relies on our children and now is the time to think about themas well as for the parents.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. How many parents volunteerin this school? Do you know how many?
MISS FREEMAN: We clock the volunteers by hours thatthey spend in the school, but I would say if you're looking roughlyfor a figure, we have anywhere during the course of the year from 500to maybe more than that in terms of volunteers coming in and out ofthe building. We also have, if you add to that number, volunteersthat work from home and send in materials or make things for us sothat we add those hours into the clocked hours for the year. So wehave a large volunteer corps.
THE PRESIDENT: What about the children who have bothparents work and maybe have two jobs? How do you work out time forthem to meet with the teachers and --
MS. GORSKI: That's -- usually since that's onSaturdays, I do the translations for the Spanish parents, and theconferences sometimes in the evenings, in the mornings, earlymornings. Sometimes, usually they have the day off and I try to workit out for their own convenience and their own schedule. It's verydifficult, especially in November, for the conferences. But lastyear, we had a lot of them that they made the conference.
THE PRESIDENT: What about -- how does the school work?What does the Assistant Principal do to make sure that there are nofires started and everybody sort of shows up more or less on time andall of that? (Laughter.)
MS. ISAACSON: Well, life here at Herndon is very, veryinteresting. And, Mr. President, despite recent events in the pastyear concerning discipline and safety in the school, we at HerndonElementary believe that schools should and need to be one of thesafest places for our children. (Applause.)
Our teachers and staff are dedicated to meeting thechallenge of educating and nurturing every child that enters theirclassroom. And by being proactive, we have fostered the importanceof building a sense of community within the classrooms and throughoutthe school. Our teachers have been trained in discipline withdignity strategies and teach the pillars of character education.They get to know the children, they get to know the families. Infact, many of them go to sporting events and dance recitals and takethe kids to Orioles ball games. We really have a very dedicatedstaff.
Our counselors work with the students to learnstrategies to help themselves in peer mediation and conflictresolution. They, too, go out; they outreach into the community,into the homes. They run classes on parenting skills and also are avery integral part of the Excel program.
The administration is very visible. And the reason weare very visible is because we need to know the tone of the day. Welike to avoid problems, we like to be proactive, and also to get thesense of the emotional state of our children. So we are visible bygreeting them every morning, by being in the cafeteria for breakfastand for lunchtime. We try to model and convey that we care for ourchildren and we are there for them, that they know who they can go tofor help.
Our Go for the Gold program has really helped thechildren set expectations and accomplish their goals, academicallyand socially, and also our parents, our business partnership and ourcommunity has been a very integral part of the team by tutoring, bymentoring and for numerous volunteer hours.
Also, we have a very unique program here at Herndoncalled "Adopt a Cop." And our local police come in and have lunchwith the children. And we find that extremely beneficial, because ithas heightened the awareness of the children about safety in theschool and within the community. So we are very, very proud of ourstaff and our community, proactive work in discipline and safety,because discipline and safety are important and are really some ofthe most challenging issues we are dealing with as educators today.(Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Last week, I went up to Worcester,Massachusetts and released there this handbook that Secretary Rileyand Attorney General Reno did for all the schools on trying toidentify children that have problems and trying to prevent thingsfrom happening before they go too far. But I've tried to emphasizeto them that the schools -- still, schools are basically the safestplaces in the country for our kids. But when something goes wrong,it can be terribly tragic.
But I think it's important that the American people knowthat most schools have people like you in them and other people whoare really working hard to do their part to help the children grow upin a safe, secure environment so they can learn. And I knowSecretary Riley, he mentioned the Character Education Program; he'sbeen promoting that and worked hard for it ever since we've beenhere, and I thank him.
What about the teachers? It's about time we heard --
MS. BELL: We're excited, Mr. President. I know at thistime of the year, we're all setting up our classrooms and wonderingwhen those students are ready to come in and meet us. But we alsoare realistic and look at the challenges that each individual childwill bring to our classroom. And also, we need to think about how dowe communicate with the parents? How do we share our expectationsand how do we get them to work together with us as a team.
It's hard enough for seasoned teachers to prepare. Butfor brand-new teachers who are just entering the profession, inFairfax County we feel it's important to provide a mentor so they canhave support and encouragement and maybe somebody just to listen totheir stories and to give them what they need.
We also provide a colleague teacher to anybody new tothe county, but who has taught before, because across the nation, wedo things a little bit differently. I think, too, we need to makesure that we can convince our middle school and high school studentsthat teaching is a wonderful profession. (Applause.) We need toprovide funding so maybe a child who is afraid they can't affordcollege can be provided that. But then, we also need to go one stepfurther, and when they do choose education, make sure we're there asexperienced teachers giving the support that a new teacher needs.
I think across the board in our school, we try to have areally strong mentorship program. And I think it goes across ourstaff. If you can share with one another, it just keeps building.Because as teachers, we never stop learning and we should never stopreaching out to help others. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: What's the most challenging thing thatnew teachers face -- first-year teachers?
MS. BELL: I think it's that first conference,sometimes, with the parent, or the first phone call and you're notsure what the concern is from the parent, because you want toestablish rapport immediately with the parent, because if youestablish that rapport, the rest of the year is so much easier. Andso we need to reach out to our parents and make sure they know thatwe're there to work with them. And we need to share that with thebeginning teachers. Don't be afraid of parents. (Laughter.)They're there to learn with us, and we must be there for them.
THE PRESIDENT: I could use her in any number ofpositions. (Laughter and applause.) We've got an airplane strike inthe Midwest I think you could -- (laughter) -- and I'd appreciate it.
MISS FREEMAN: Mr. President, she's taken. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: But one of those parents who is sittingto your left, Mr. Lewis, you're the PTA President. First of all, Iknow this is not what you are going to say, but what do you do whenyou're not the PTA President and why did you decide to do this?
MR. LEWIS: Well, Mr. President, before I answer thatquestion -- (laughter) -- by way of beginning, we at HerndonElementary, along with the chorus of voices across this nation wantto take this moment to commend you and your administration for yourunwavering commitment to the notion of quality education for millionsof schoolchildren in America. (Applause.)
We ask you, Mr President, to continue to press forward.Simply stated, Mr. President, we want to say that we appreciate you,and thank you. (Applause.)
Now, to answer your question specifically, Mr.President, my day job is with Communities in Schools, so I'm workingwith Bill Milligan; I know you know him. And, of course, we are thelargest stay in school program in the nation, and we're in over 1,000schools across the country, we serve over 350,000 to 500,000schoolchildren a year. I have a deep, burning passion to helpchildren to achieve their capacity and potential, as well as everyonearound this panel and those that occupy the audience today.
My daughter, Christina Lewis, who is here with us today-- (applause) -- is a student at Herndon Elementary School, and itseems to me that everyone has an incumbent obligation to contributeto their community in every way they possibly can, and that broughtme to the PTA. And let me say very quickly that the PTA is composedof teachers and parents and administrators that are world-class inevery way and it makes my job very easy.
I do want to say, Mr. President, that in your Inauguralmetaphor that you used to call the nation to action, that is,building bridges to the 21st century, the PTA at Herndon ElementarySchool is about building bridges, it's about connecting thedisconnect, it's about building a community context around the schooland every student within the school.
Secretary Riley has talked often about the fault linesin America, the emerging fault lines in America. And what we'reabout as a PTA is building bridges across those fault lines. And letme tell you how we do that, Mr. President. We build community aroundthe school, around every student in the school, and we have somethingcalled "Guiding Principles" that inform our decision-making. Thereare 10, and there are 10 guiding principles because someone came downoff a mountain once with 10 principles, so we try to approximatethat.
Number one: We believe that within every child there isgreatness. Number two: We believe that all children can learn.Number three: We believe that all children should be affirmed andvalidated. Number four: Every child should feel safe, cared aboutand capable. We call these four principles, the Principles thatProduce Social Capital, that every child can draw upon in order torealize their capacity, potential, hopes and aspirations.
Number five: We believe that effective schools shouldhave a abiding source quality. That is, we should constantly examinewhether or not we are providing value for our customers in terms ofadequacy, relevancy and effectiveness. Number six: We believe thateffective schools should be learning organizations. That is, theyshould be open, responsive and adaptable. Number seven: We believestrongly in parent involvement. The literature tells us andexperience tell us that when parents are involved in schools,children succeed in school exponentially.
Number eight: We believe that every child should haveaccess to modern information technology and that technology should beintegrated in the teaching and the curriculum. We believe that thatis essential. Number nine: We believe that children in schoolshould be embraced by a community of collaborative partnerships, thatare needs-based focused. And number ten, Mr. President: We believethat every school in every school district should have a vision thatis compelling, clear, and is consistent. We believe that theseguiding principles, Mr. President, are imperative. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I would just like to say a couple ofthings and ask you one question. First of all, I want to thank youfor your work with the Cities and Schools program. I brought it toArkansas with Bill Milliken probably 15 years ago, and that's a longtime ago. Secondly, I want to thank you for your work in the PTA andas a father who used to be an active participant in all our schoolevents, I think it's a good thing to have men as well as women bepresent -- (applause.) And I think that's good.
How many members does your PTA have? How many parentmembers?
MR. LEWIS: Last year, 47 percent of the parentpopulation of Herndon Elementary School were members of the PTA. Thisyear, under the able leadership of Mary Mann, who is our VicePresident for Membership, we expect to go to scale -- 100 percent.(Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'd say that's pretty good.
MS. MANN: We think big here.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Superintendent, are all yourschools like this? (Laughter.)
MR. DOMENECH: Well, welcome, Mr. President, to HerndonElementary and to the Fairfax County Public School System. We arethe 12th largest school system in America with 152,000 students; andundoubtedly, we are the best school system in America. (Applause.)Clearly, the reason for that, I think, is demonstrated around thistable. This is a community that values education, that treasureseducation, where the parents, the business community, the staff justgive 100 percent for all of our children. And in spite of our size,it's a quality school system.
We are a microcosm of America. We have 39 percent ofour students are minority students. But we don't see diversity as aweakness, we count diversity, really, as our strength. (Applause.)We have instituted a number of programs, and I think you heard asample of those programs here that have been very successful for us.
Now, in spite of that, we want to continue excellence.And in order to do that and in order to meet the challenge of the21st century, because we very much agree with you that the UnitedStates of America is the number one power in this country. But weonly have five percent of the world's population. And what thattells us is that there isn't a single child that we can afford tolose if we treasure the future of this country. (Applause.)
The challenges that confront us, Mr. President, and theones that we need assistance with is size. We -- you mentionedbefore visiting a school in Florida, well, the Secretary visited usthis spring at Centreville High School, where we have over 40 -- wedon't call them "portables," we call them "learning cottages."(Laughter.) That's at just one school. And you'll see thatrepresented around the county. We have a problem in terms offacilities. We need dollars to construct new schools; we needdollars to extend facilities. Herndon -- you'll see a couple oflearning cottages outside here as well.
Technology -- it's a major issue, a very important issuefor us in education, but again, a big ticket item. We need helpthere. And definitely we need help in terms of class size. One ofour -- (applause) -- one of our initiatives for this coming schoolyear is a program we call "Success by Eight," and that translatesinto that by the time they're eight years old, by the third grade, weexpect all of our children to be able to read, we expect all of themto on grade level in terms of math and the other studies. But inorder to do that, we have to be able to create the kind of learningenvironment for them where the size is small enough that teachers cando the kind of job and the students can learn.
So those are important issues that we face, and we as aschool system are making ourselves highly accountable, also, to ourpublic and to our community. And we're saying this is what we expectto do, this is what we will do -- hold us accountable, because inturn, we get this tremendous support from staff and community andbusiness. So we're happy to have you here, and we certainly lookforward to your assistance, sir. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, I think this is atruly extraordinary school district. And I have done my part topromote you, you know, around the country -- (laughter) -- talk aboutwhat an amazing school district this is. Some of your schools,particular schools, are as diverse as any in America and a stunningarray of people coming from different places. So I'm very impressedand I thank you for what you're doing.
I wonder if -- Secretary Riley, would you like to sayanything before I talk a little bit about the congressional agenda?
SECRETARY RILEY: Let me say just a word, Mr. President,and then present you for some remarks. First of all, there wasmention made of your speech about the early warning signs, thosepublications the President charged the Attorney General and myself tocome up, including child psychologists and law enforcement people andteachers and all, and we're going to have that to you all within thenext couple of days, and all of your schools, then, will have themand I think it will be a big help. It's a child-centered guide.It's not to label children, but to help them. And I think you'llfind it very, very helpful.
I -- and what a grand panel this has been.
THE PRESIDENT: Didn't they do a great job? (Applause.)
SECRETARY RILEY: I had the chance to read a very goodbook a couple of months ago -- some of you might have read it --"Cold Mountain." And Charles Frazier, the author, could do as muchwith the English language as anybody I've read lately. And AdaMonroe, his wonderful lead character in there, was making a statementabout her father, who was deceased, who was a Methodist minister andfrom Charleston, South Carolina, in the book, in the novel, and whichis -- South Carolina is my home.
Anyhow, associated with that, she said wonderful thingsabout her father all through it, and he was a great community leader,and she said that "he talked of ignorance and developed strategiesfor its defeat." A lot of people talk about education and ignorance.The important thing, I think, for all of us, though, is to cometogether on strategies for improving education. No one -- no one hasdone more to present practical, common-sense strategies for improvingeducation than our President. Whether it's standards -- (applause)-- raising standards, improving teaching, making schools safer -- allof the many strategies, many of which have been talked about today.
Bill Clinton has worked tirelessly to meet thesechallenges, to prepare America for this Information Age. And he'snot just talked about improving education and he's not just talkedabout defeating ignorance. He has devised strategies to help make ita reality. It's a great pleasure for me, once again, to introduce toall of you in this wonderful audience, this grand panel, thePresident of the United States, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: The way I was prepared for this, I wassupposed to go up there to the podium and give a little talk and it'sway too past that. (Laughter.) We've had too much fun. But what Iwould like to do is to outline to you -- there are six things thatthe Congress should pass that are in my budget that don't break thebalanced budget, that are in our balanced budget that they can passor not pass in the next few days that I think would really help ourchildren a lot. Five of them bear directly on our schools, oneindirectly.
But I'd like to just mention them so you would know,because I would like to see them get broad bipartisan support. Idon't really believe we're best served when education is a partisanissue; I think we're best served when it's an American issue thatcrosses party lines. (Applause.)
First of all, I have given Congress a plan for smaller
classes, better-trained teachers and more modern schools. Let'sbegin with the teacher shortage. You know what's acute here, it isprofound in many places. Now, let me say one other word ofintroduction. There has been what I consider to be a legitimatequestion raised of me by many members of Congress who say, well, now,look, Mr. President, you're trying to get the federal government intofinancing things that the federal government has never beforefinanced. We've never been into building or repairing schools, forexample.
There are many states in this country where the statesdon't even do that, where it all has to be done at the local level,or putting 100,000 teachers out there for smaller classes in theearly grades.
My answer is as follows: Number one, it's hard to thinkof a more important national issue. Number two, I'm not doinganything to interfere with the local direction of the schools or thestates' constitutional responsibility to set the framework of publiceducation. And number three, in some places like this district, thelevel of growth, and in other places the level of poverty, make itsimply inconceivable that they can achieve these objectivesotherwise.
So I think if we have the money, this is what we oughtto do. (Applause.) But I want to prepare you in case any of youfeel moved by the spirit to call or write your congressman orsenator. (Laughter.) There is a legitimate historic pattern herewhere they'll say, well, you know, President Clinton's got a lot ofenergy, but he may have gone too far this time because the federalgovernment's never done this. There is a reason we're doing it now.There's a reason we're doing it now. We have to prove that ourelementary and secondary schools can be uniformly as excellent as ourcolleges and universities are and give all of our kids world-classeducation. And unless we do this, I am convinced there won't be theresources out there to get the job done.
So let me say first of all, the teacher shortage. I'veasked Congress to pass a plan to help school districts hire 100,000new teachers, all trained, tested and certified by state educationauthorities, targeted to smaller classes in the early grades. Again,where all the research shows, there are permanent gains if kids getthe kind of individual attention they need in the early grades.
I've also asked them to help me support better teachertraining programs not directed by Washington; those things that allof you know work, all educators know work. There is not today in myopinion a sufficient commitment to helping teachers continue toimprove their skills, upgrade their skills, work with other teachers,to have the time necessary to try to continue to improve, to avoidburnout under all the pressures that they're under.
When I go out and talk to educators, there's really alot of support for increased investment in teacher training. So Ihope that Congress will fully fund this class size reduction program.It would give us down to an average of 18 children per class once wedo it. (Applause.) The second problem is, it's hard to have a smallclass without a classroom. (Laughter.)
What did you call them, learning cottages? Learningcottages. That sounds like someplace you're sent when you misbehave.(Laughter.) Learning cottages. Anyway, so I have also presented aplan to help to modernize or build new, 5,000 schools. Next Tuesday,when I get back from my trip, the Secretary and I and others aregoing to hold school modernization days all across America tohighlight our proposal which would provide tax credit to build ormodernize or rebuild 5,000 public schools.
I have been to schools in this country where wholefloors were closed because they were so old. But they're wonderfulbuildings. Structurally, no one could afford to build such buildingstoday because of the cost of construction. But if you go to aninner-city school, for example, think of what message it gives aseven-year-old child to walk up the steps of a school where thepaint's peeling off and the windows are broken.
Think of the message you're sending your child -- youwant to say, oh, every child is a treasure, all these things thatyour PTA President said; I believe every one of them. But sometimes,the actions speak louder than words. You can tell those childrenthat, but if they have to keep walking up steps into broken-downbuildings, do they really think we believe it?
The other day, I was in Philadelphia in a school -- theaverage school building, the average age of school buildings inPhiladelphia is 65 years. That's the average age. Now, the goodnews is, those structures, by and large, are magnificent. The badnews is, a whole lot of them are in terrible shape and I think it's aworthy investment. I think it's a worthy investment of our money.(Applause.)
So, we want to give fast-growing districts like this oneand districts with good structures but old, run-down buildings thechance they need to go forward. So that's the first -- more teachersfor smaller classes and more classes.
Second, we want to fully fund my plan to equip ournation's classrooms with computers and cutting-edge educationalsoftware and to train teachers to be there to make sure that thetechnology is properly used. I want to hook up every classroom andlibrary in the entire country to the Internet by the year 2000 andmake sure that the software is good and that the teachers are trainedto make the most of it. And we have to help you do that. Youshouldn't have to fully fund that. (Applause.)
Third, I want to strengthen the charter school movement.There are some school districts that have been greatly advanced byletting teachers and others get together and start new schools withinthe framework of the school district where the whole district's notreforming, but they want to try something new. We've got now aboutalmost 1,000 of those schools out there. When I became President,there was only one in the whole country. When I was talking about itin 1992, I might have been trying to explain the theory ofrelativity. Everybody thought I was nuts. (Laughter.)
But now, first we had one, now we've got nearly 1,000,and if my budget passes, we'll have 3,000 funded by the year 2000.Fourth, I want to continue to open the doors of college to allAmericans who will work for it by reauthorizing the Higher EducationAct. Now, that doesn't mean anything, so let me tell you what thatmeans, that reauthorization. (Laughter.)
This legislation will help more children reach theirpotential by improving teacher education, it will help strugglingcommunities to hire 35,000 well-qualified teachers, it will expandmentoring programs, something that you've already said is importantto you, it will reduce interest rates on student loans, it willextend Pell Grants and the federal Work Study Program. We've takenit from 700,000 Work Study positions to 1 million in three years. Sothese things are very important.
You know, we have provided for lower interest rates onstudent loans, better repayment, 300,000 more Work Study slots, andnow tax credits worth about $1,500 a year for the first two years ofcollege, and then for junior and senior year and graduate school. Iam determined that when I leave office, no American will ever, everwalk away from college because of the cost. We can open the doors toeverybody who is qualified, and it's important. (Applause.)
Fifth, let's go back to what we were talking about onreading. We want to pass a bipartisan early literacy bill to help totrain teachers and mobilize an army of volunteer tutors. Because asI said, we already have 1,000 colleges participating in this program,and I think it's very, very important.
Sixth, we have a general program to strengthen ourschools that would expand Head Start, strengthen after-schoolprograms for hundreds of thousands of children. This is a huge dealin areas with a lot of juvenile crime, with a lot of dangerousstreets, with a lot of gangs. These after-school programs and summerschool programs have dramatically reduced student problems whileincreasing student achievement, and I think that's very, veryimportant. (Applause.)
We have a special initiative aimed at Hispanic youngpeople because the school dropout rate is still much higher forHispanics than for any other group, largely because of languagebarriers and economic problems. And we also have in this packageprogram I just mentioned our Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.We've tried to take the initiatives that we know work in schools likethis one and make sure they are in every single school in America.
Now, the bill that the House Republican Majority hasproposed falls short of these goals in every single one of theseareas. But it's not too late. The bill has to be considered in theSenate, then both the Senate and the House must vote on it. So Iwould implore you, without regard to your political party, just tocontact your members of Congress, your senators, and ask them tosupport this agenda. We have the money.
We have worked hard to balance the budget. We've workedhard to show fiscal discipline, to get the economy going again.There is no more important area in which to spend the money now thatwe have it, and so I hope you will help us to do that. (Applause.)
Let me just say one final thing. The Senate tomorrowtakes up the Summer Jobs Program. Now, that's not for this summer,but the one we just passed, but for the summer about to come. Itprovides more than 500,000 young people a chance to work. It is aGodsend to this country. And because of the funding --federal-funded Summer Jobs Program, we have a lot of places which weare able then to go out and get other people to put up money toexpand the program. For reasons I do not understand, the HouseCommittee wants to disband it, and I think it would be a disastrouserror.
It comes up in the Senate tomorrow, and again, this isfundamentally an education issue because if kids get in trouble overthe summer or they have problems and they don't have something to do,or if they need the money and they can't earn it, it increases thechances that they'll drop out. So I hope that you will also supportthe Summer Jobs Program. The Senate is taking it up quite soon. Ibelieve the Senate, across party lines, will vote to extend it, butwe need help.
So I just wanted to close by trying to close this circlehere. We started in this roundtable talking about what you are doingto give the children in your charge the future they deserve and afuture America desperately needs for them to have. But we think wehave a role here if we're going to build those bridges to the 21stcentury. And I've done my best to define that role based on 20 yearsnow of working with people in education. I think it's a good agenda.Secretary Riley and I, ourselves, started working together almost 20years ago on public education. I guess next year will be our 20thanniversary of working together on these things when we were younggovernors.
I know that you know that there are things we should do,and I believe if we don't be harsh and political in our rhetoric --we talk about our children and what we know to be true of education,we can get a listening ear among enough thoughtful Republicans tojoin our Democrats to build a bipartisan coalition to do what thenational government should do to help make possible more stories likethe ones we've heard around this table today. That is my whole goal.And I know we won't have all the stories we need unless we also doour part. So I ask you: Whatever you can do to contact yourrepresentatives and senators, whatever you can do to make it clearthat these are not partisan issues, these are people issues, and thatour future is riding on it. If you can do that, I would be verygrateful. And thank you for what you do here every day. Thank you.(Applause.)