December 6, 2000
This week, an important tradition is taking place on Capitol Hill -- the biannual orientation for newly-elected members of Congress. Unfortunately, our lawmakers are sharing the stage for a more somber undertaking -- a lame-duck session called to finish work on the federal budget. At midnight tonight, the 16th Continuing Resolution -- the temporary spending bill passed to keep the government functioning in the absence of a budget -- expires. After passing yet another CR, the members must turn immediately to the appropriations and other spending measures that remain, among them the important Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill.
Before Congress left in November, a spirit of bipartisan compromise led to an agreement between administration and Hill negotiators on several issues important to Americans and key to the well-being of our country's families and children. Unfortunately, Congress left town for the November election before the bill was passed. Now, for our children's sake, I hope that the constructive spirit that led to an agreement on this bill will reemerge, preparing us to enter the 107th Congress -- the first Congress of the 21st century -- energized, optimistic and committed to progress and bipartisanship.
Many of you have children who attend schools that are deteriorating seemingly before your eyes. Their roofs leak, heating systems don't work, and classrooms are plagued by broken windows and dangerous wiring. Unfortunately, among the agreements in danger of being lost if the Labor, HHS, and Education bill is not approved, is a landmark emergency repair fund established to help school districts fix these very problems. Another aspect of the bill would reduce the financial burden on local and state governments by having Washington shoulder a larger share of the cost of special education.
Initiatives that would put us on track to hire 100,000 new teachers, reduce class size, and fund important professional development opportunities are on the table again this week. Then there is the initiative I call "small, safe and successful high schools." For too long, as the population of school-aged children has ballooned, too many high schools have grown to resemble warehouses, handling, in some cases, many thousands of students. Such numbers make it virtually impossible to give individuals the attention and care they need and deserve. The appropriations bill that I hope will pass this week would support grants to schools that want to create smaller learning communities, such as schools-within-schools and career academies.
Before their break, legislators had also agreed to increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides subsidies to working families burdened by the high costs of day care. And they agreed to help communities improve the quality of child care, foster cognitive development in young children, promote readiness for school, and train thousands of early childhood educators and caregivers to help improve children's language and literacy skills. The final compromise also supported the largest funding request ever for Head Start, keeping us on track to reach our goal of enrolling 1,000,000 children by the year 2002.
We cannot allow the education of our children to be derailed by politics. Especially as we move into the new century and adjust to the lightening-fast changes in technology that are taking place, it is our responsibility to make sure our children have the best schools and the best teachers we can provide.
State legislators should take heed, for if Congress fails to pass the bipartisan education plan, the financial impact on state and local governments will be severe. California, for instance, could lose almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. New York could find itself short more than $40 million for after-school and summer school programs alone. And Illinois could have to do without nearly $70 million in support for disabled students.
We are too close to having an excellent package to give up now. It's time to work together to bring this historic agreement to a close so that we can get on with other important pieces of the nation's business -- negotiating a fair and productive tax cut, enacting common-sense gun legislation, and passing the Patients' Bill of Rights, comprehensive campaign finance reform, hate crimes legislation, reauthorization of the National and Community Service Act and expansion of health coverage to vulnerable Americans.
As I reflect on the daylong series of meetings I attended at the Senate orientation today, I am more committed than ever to operate in the positive and productive atmosphere that prevailed before the election. And given the razor-thin margin of the presidential vote, I know that it will be more important than ever to reach out and work together for what's right and what's good.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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Talking It Over: 2000
December 13, 2000: Column on Trip to Ireland and Vital Voices Announcement
November 29, 2000: Column on "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History"
November 22, 2000: Column on Trip to Vietnam
November 15, 2000: Column on the 200th Anniversary of the White House
November 8, 2000: Column on New York Senate Race
November 1, 2000: Column on the Importance of Voting
October 25, 2000: Column Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Important to the American People
October 18, 2000: Column on Trafficking of Women and Children
October 11, 2000: Column on Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act
October 4, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of AmeriCorps National Service Program
September 27, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of VAWA
September 20, 2000: Column on Ritalin
September 13, 2000: Column on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry
September 6, 2000: Column on Expanding Healthcare Benefits
August 30, 2000: Column on Making Education Our #1 Priority
August 23, 2000: Column on Pine Ridge, New Markets Tour
August 16, 2000: Column on Decision 2000
August 9, 2000: Column on the Congressional and Presidential Tax Plans
August 2, 2000: Column on Newborn Hearing Screening
July 26, 2000: Column on the 10th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act
July 19, 2000 : Column on Treasures Visit to Ellis Island
July 12, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors
July 5, 2000: Column on the Ninth Millennium Evening,
June 27, 2000: Column on Quality Education for Hispanic Youth
June 21, 2000: Column on Save America's Treasures: Val Kil Cottage, New York
June 14, 2000: Column on the Violence Against Women Act
May 31, 2000: Column on National Trails Day
May 24, 2000: Column on National Moment of Remembrance
May 17, 2000: Column on Howard Theater
May 10, 2000: Column on Million Mom March
May 3, 2000: Column on the White House Conference on Teenagers
April 26, 2000: Column on Arbor Day
April 19, 2000: Column on Earth Day
April 12, 2000: Column on International Family Planning
April 5, 2000: Column on Women Entrepreneurs and Microcredit
March 29, 2000: Column on Teen Smoking
March 22, 2000: Column on Pediatric Drugs
March 15, 2000: Column on Child Support
March 8, 2000: Column on Children and Guns
March 1, 2000: Column on Teacher Training, Recruitment and Retention
February 23, 2000: Column on D.C. Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy Launch
February 16, 2000: Column on Vital Voices Event at the White House
February 9, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage
February 2, 2000: Column on Child Care
January 26, 2000: Column on College Opportunity
January 19, 2000: Column on Human Trafficking
January 12, 2000: Column on Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing
January 5, 2000: Column on the New Millennium
December 20, 2000: Column on Presidential Interagency Council on Women
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