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October 22, 1999: Calling On Congress to Invest In Our Schools

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"When it comes to education, the debate is not so much about money anymore, as it is about values, priorities, and direction. Not just about how much we spend, but how we spend it. And a big part of this debate is about honoring our obligation to our children and our future."

President Bill Clinton
Monday, October 22, 1999

Today, in Washington, DC., President Clinton addressed over 400 top teachers at the annual meeting of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The President called on Congress to fund critical education initiatives such as reducing class size, improving teacher quality, turning around failing schools, expanding after-school programs, and raising standards. The President noted that the Republican appropriations bill shortchanges these goals, and urged Congress to work with him to pass an education spending bill that prepares our children for the 21st century.

Promoting Standards for Teachers. President Clinton recognized the special role that highly qualified teachers like those certified by the NBPTS can play in turning around our lowest-performing schools. The NBPTS is an independent, non-profit organization that establishes rigorous standards for teachers. It offers a system of voluntary national certification designed to give teachers clear and objective standards of practice, and to help drive professional development and standards-based reform.

Investing in Proven Strategies for School Reform. Noting that the issue is not only how much we spend on education but how wisely we spend, the President called on Congress to invest in proven strategies such as:

  • improving teacher quality;
  • hiring 100,000 well-qualified teachers to reduce class size;
  • recruiting, training, and supporting high-quality teachers in high-poverty areas;
  • expanding Troops for Teachers initiative;
  • increasing accountability and turning around low-performing schools;
  • investing in after-school, summer school, and mentoring programs; and
  • building and modernizing 6,000 schools.

Republican Education Bill Fails to Invest in What Works. The President pointed out that the current Republican Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill:

  • fails to guarantee that the 30,000 teachers hired last year can continue, and provides no funding for the additional 8,000 teachers the President's plan would support this year;

  • fails to provide resources for states and localities to turn around failing schools;

  • underinvests in after-school and summer school programs, denying at least 300,000 students access to programs that would help them reach high standards;

  • shortchanges teacher quality and recruitment programs, including the successful Troops to Teachers program that enables retired military personnel to teach in high-need areas;

  • underinvests in the GEAR UP program, denying more than 130,000 disadvantaged young people the help they need to get into college; and

  • underfunds critical investments in education technology

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