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August 23, 2000: President Clinton: Modernizing America's Schools for the 21st Century

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August 23, 2000

"There is nothing more important for us to do if we want to use this moment to build a future of our dreams for our kids than to make sure all of our children get a 21st century education. And that requires both investment and standards in accountability."

President Bill Clinton
August 23, 2000

Today, in South Brunswick, New Jersey, President Clinton emphasized the urgent national need to build new schools and modernize existing ones. Speaking at Crossroads Middle School, which is almost 20 percent above capacity and has eight temporary classrooms, the President released a new analysis on New Jersey school enrollment, which is now at its highest point in over 20 years. The President called on Congress to invest in education and modernize schools by passing his budget plan, which includes $25 billion in School Modernization Bonds and $6.5 billion in loans and grants for urgent school renovation.

RELEASING AN ANALYSIS OF RECORD-HIGH SCHOOL ENROLLMENTS IN NEW JERSEY. This year, 1.3 million students will attend New Jersey schools, a 20 percent increase over the last decade and the most since the 1970s, according to a Department of Education analysis released today. School enrollment in South Brunswick has increased by 90 percent in the past decade, fast enough to fill a new school every two to three years. Nationwide, 53 million students will begin school this fall, the highest ever.

A PLAN TO MODERNIZE AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. All students need a safe, healthy, and modern place to learn. To meet this national priority, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have proposed:

  • $25 billion in School Modernization Bonds that would be interest-free for school districts to help build and modernize 6,000 schools nationwide; and
  • A $1.3 billion initiative to make $6.5 billion in grants and interest-free loans available 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.

HIGHLIGHTING THE 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:

  • 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;
  • The Department of Education estimates that $127 billion is needed to bring America's schools into good overall condition;
  • Research links student achievement and behavior to physical building conditions and overcrowding.

CALLING ON CONGRESS TO INVEST IN AMERICA'S EDUCATION PRIORITIES. President Clinton urged Congress to pass a balanced and responsible budget that makes investments in key education initiatives to expand college opportunity, raise standards, and invest in what works. The current Republican budget:

  • Ignores the pressing national need for school modernization by failing to include the President's plans to build and modernize 6,000 schools and make emergency repairs to another 25,000 over the next five years;
  • Fails to help prepare 600,000 disadvantaged students for college through GEAR UP, reduce class sizes in the early grades, strengthen accountability and turn around failing schools, improve teacher quality, provide after-school learning opportunities to over 1 million children, and help bridge the digital divide; and
  • Excludes the $36 billion College Opportunity Tax Cut to make college more affordable and accessible. The College Opportunity Tax Cut would allow families to claim a tax deduction or 28-percent tax credit for up to $10,000 in tuition, saving them up to $2,800. The tax cut would be fully phased-in by 2003.

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