Tuesday, October 24, 2000
Today, at the White House, President Clinton called on Congress to pass legislation to provide communities new tools to modernize America's schools – and to do it this year. President Clinton was joined by Democratic leaders, parents, children, educators, labor representatives, and other members of a national grassroots coalition to build and repair our public schools. He spoke against the backdrop of a model schoolhouse that was 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 the President's education initiatives.
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. Costly improvements such as the removal of asbestos and lead paint are needed in many schools just to meet basic health and safety standards. Studies show:
- The average public school was built 42 years ago;
- An estimated 3.5 million students attend schools that need extensive repair or replacement;
- An estimated $127 billion is needed to bring America's schools into good overall condition;
- Our schools need over $300 billion to meet the costs of repairs, rising enrollments, and modern technology infrastructure installation;
- School conditions matter: A growing body of research links student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding.
THE ADMINISTRATION'S PLAN TO MODERNIZE AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. President Clinton's school construction and modernization proposals include:
- $25 billion in School Modernization Bonds that would be interest-free for school districts. The bonds would help build and modernize 6,000 schools nationwide;
- $1.3 billion initiative for urgent repairs, targeted to high-need districts. Over 5 years, the initiative would help 25,000 schools repair roofs, heating and cooling systems, and electrical wiring;
- $293 million, which the President has already secured from Congress, to replace and repair Native American schools – the largest investment ever in a single year for Bureau of Indian Affairs school construction and repair.
THE REPUBLICAN BUDGET IGNORES AMERICA'S EDUCATION PRIORITIES. The current Republican budget plan:
- Provides no guaranteed funding for urgent school repairs, potentially denying needed renovations to up to 5,000 schools;
- Fails to fund new School Modernization Bonds, which would help communities build and modernize 6,000 schools;
- Denies safe after-school learning opportunities to 1.6 million children by supporting 3,100 fewer centers in 900 fewer communities than the President's budget would;
- Provides no guaranteed funding for class-size reduction, potentially denying smaller classes to 2.9 million children;
- Fails 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;
- Allocates no money for the Accountability Fund, denying resources to states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools and hold them accountable for results.