President Clinton Urges Congress to Pass an Education Budget with the Right Priorities
Today, President Clinton will again urge Congress to come together in a bipartisan process and pass a budget that invests in education and other key priorities for America. Congressional Republicans today decided to set aside a bipartisan agreement on the education budget reached by the Administration and Congress this past weekend because of objections by special interests to strong worker safety laws. To date, there is no final education budget that funds school construction, smaller class size, afterschool learning opportunities, improved teacher quality and ensuring that failing schools are turned around. Nearly one month past the end of the fiscal year, Congress has passed nine extensions, but still has not completed a budget. President Clinton is now granting additional extensions one day at a time to ensure that Congress stays in town and completes its business by passing a tax bill for middle-class families, finishing a fiscally responsible budget that invests in education, and enacting other national priorities.
PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL URGE CONGRESS TO FINISH A BUDGET THAT INVESTS MORE AND DEMANDS MORE IN EDUCATION. In February, President Clinton and Vice President Gore sent Congress a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that makes investments in key priorities, such as education. So far, Congress has not acted on legislation to meet the full needs for:
- School modernization. An estimated 3.5 million students attend schools that need extensive repair or replacement. President Clinton proposed to create $25 billion in bonds to build and modernize 6,000 schools and a $1.3 billion initiative for urgent school repairs;
- Expanded after-school opportunities. President Clinton proposed $1 billion to support 8,000 extended learning centers, tripling the number of children served by federally funded after-school programs to nearly 2.5 million children;
- Smaller classes, better teachers. President Clinton proposed $1.75 billion to help school districts support the 29,000 teachers already hired under the Class-Size Reduction initiative and continue on the path to our goal of hiring 100,000 high-quality teachers by 2005 ;
- Improved teacher quality. President Clinton proposed a comprehensive initiative to make progress towards putting a qualified teacher in every classroom and enhance teacher quality through professional development, recruitment, and rewards;
- Strengthening accountability and turning around failing schools. The President's $250 million accountability fund would help states and school districts invest in proven reforms to turn around low-performing schools and hold them accountable for results.
IN ADDITION, PRESIDENT CLINTON URGED CONGRESS TO GET DOWN TO WORK ON OTHER PRIORITIES FOR AMERICA:
- RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE. In his 1998 State of the Union Address, the President called for raising the minimum wage by $1 over two years, which would help more than 10 million workers make ends meet. At time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase would return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982.
- TAX RELIEF FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES. Despite President Clinton's repeated offers to Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Lott for bipartisan negotiations on a tax package that reflects the priorities of both parties, Congress has passed a tax bill that ignores key priorities for America. First, the Republican school construction provisions fall far short of both the great national need for school modernization and the help that would be provided by the bipartisan Johnson-Rangel proposal. Second, the Republican bill completely ignores the President's proposal to cover millions of uninsured working Americans; includes only half of the benefits of his long-term care tax credit; and excludes the bipartisan credit for vaccine research and purchases. Finally, it makes virtually no attempt to address the Administration's concerns about the pension provisions by failing to address the lack of pension coverage for over 70 million people and potentially creating new incentives for employers to drop pension coverage.
- CRITICAL MEDICARE/MEDICAID PRIORITIES. The Republican tax legislation insists on an unjustifiable spending increase for HMOs at the same time it rejects accountability provisions to ensure that HMOs stay in the communities they are serving and rebuffs bipartisan policies such as health insurance options for children with disabilities, an extension of Medicaid coverage for those moving from welfare to work, enrollment of children in the new S-CHIP program through the schools, coverage for legal immigrant pregnant women and children, and needed payment increases to hospitals, academic health centers, home health agencies, and other vulnerable providers. President Clinton will insist that Congress not go home before responding to the urgent health needs of our seniors, people with disabilities, and children and the health care providers who serve them.
- PROVIDE AN AFFORDABLE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT OPTION FOR ALL MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate or no prescription drug coverage. In the context of broader reform that ensures that Medicare revenues are only used for Medicare, the President has proposed a voluntary, affordable, Medicare prescription drug benefit for all beneficiaries.
- ENACT A MEANINGFUL PATIENT'S BILL OF RIGHTS. The majority of the U.S. Senate supports a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell plan that passed the House overwhelmingly over a year ago. However, the Senate Republican leadership continues to support an alternative that leaves over 135 million people without protections and doesn't assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients.
- ENSURE EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN. The President's $47 million Equal Pay Initiative would train employers on wage discrimination; train women in nontraditional jobs; and support apprenticeships and industry partnerships. The President again will urge Congress to pass this initiative, and the "The Paycheck Fairness Act," introduced by Senator Tom Daschle and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, to strengthen laws prohibiting wage discrimination.
- INSIST ON FAIRNESS FOR IMMIGRANTS. The President will reiterate his commitment to fairness for immigrants who have been in this country for years, working hard and paying taxes, by enacting the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA) and restoring critical nutrition assistance and health benefits for legal immigrants.
- PROTECT OUR NATION'S YOUTH AND HOLD TOBACCO COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE. The President will call on Congress to provide the funds necessary to support the Department of Justice's tobacco litigation so we can hold the tobacco companies accountable for the harm they've caused and give the American people their day in court.
- PASS HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION. The President will urge Congress to send him meaningful legislation to allow the federal prosecution of hate crimes based on gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
- COMPLETE ITS WORK ON NATIONAL SERVICE. The President and 49 of the 50 governors have called on Congress to pass the reauthorization of AmeriCorps and other critical national service programs this year. This reauthorization would reaffirm and strengthen our nation's commitment to national service and build on the far-reaching benefits of the national service program.