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Fact Sheet: President Clinton: Modernizing America's Schools for the 21st Century (8/23/00)
President Clinton: Modernizing America's Schools for the 21st Century
August 23, 2000
Today, President Clinton will emphasize the urgent national need to build new schools and modernize existing ones at Crossroads Middle School in South Brunswick, New Jersey. Like many other crowded schools across the country, Crossroads Middle School is almost 20 percent above capacity and has eight temporary classrooms. President Clinton will release a new U.S. Department of Education analysis on school enrollment in New Jersey, which is now at its highest point in over 20 years. Finally, President Clinton will call on Congress to invest in education and modernize schools nationwide by passing his budget plan, which include $25 billion in School Modernization Bonds and $6.5 billion in loans and grants for urgent school renovation.
PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL RELEASE AN ANALYSIS OF RECORD-SETTING 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 the Department of Education analysis released today. South Brunswick school enrollment has increased by 90 percent in the past decade, fast enough to fill a new school every two to three years. These enrollment surges are consistent with the nationwide trend: 53 million students will begin school this fall, the highest ever. Unlike our past experience — when enrollment rose and dipped repeatedly — schools in the 21st century will see sustained, steady growth for generations, reaching 94 million students in 2100. Over 85 percent of New Jersey schools reported in 1995 that they needed to make repairs to restore their facilities to good overall condition.
PRESIDENT CLINTON HAS 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. President Clinton has proposed $25 billion in school construction bonds that would be interest-free for school districts. The bonds would help build and modernize 6,000 schools nationwide. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. Charles Rangel and Nancy Johnson introduced bipartisan legislation based on the President's proposal with 226 sponsors. In the Senate, Sen. Charles Robb introduced a similar bill.
Bond owners would receive federal tax credits rather than interest payments from school districts, allowing districts to borrow interest-free for school construction. A similar mechanism has been used successfully for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs).
Districts could use these 15-year bonds to modernize existing schools as well as build new ones. The $25 billion would be allocated among states and school districts, with $400 million available to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.
The President's proposal would cost $2.4 billion over five years. The bill's innovative financing mechanism is a cost-effective approach to leveraging local construction that avoids a new bureaucracy.
$6.5 BILLION IN LOANS AND GRANTS FOR URGENT REPAIRS. President Clinton has also proposed a $1.3 billion initiative to make $6.5 billion in grants and interest-free loans 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. The assistance would be targeted to high-need districts, with $50 million for Native American districts and a smaller amount of grant aid available for school districts unable to finance capital expenditures. Sen. Harkin and Rep. Clay have introduced urgent school repair legislation in Congress.
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.
An estimated $127 billion is needed to bring America's schools into good overall condition, according to U.S. Department of Education. An estimated 3.5 million students attend schools that need extensive repair or replacement. (Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 1999, 2000)
Our schools need over $300 billion including the costs of meeting rising enrollments and installing a modern technology infrastructure as well as repairs, according to the National Education Association. (Modernizing Our Schools: What Will It Cost?, 2000)
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. (National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2000, p. 63).
School conditions matter: A growing body of research links student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding. Good facilities are an important precondition for student learning, provided that other necessary conditions are also present.
CALLING ON CONGRESS TO INVEST IN AMERICA'S EDUCATION PRIORITIES. In February, the Clinton-Gore Administration sent Congress a balanced and responsible budget that made investments in key education initiatives to expand college opportunity, raise standards, and invest in what works. However, the Republican budget:
Ignores the pressing national need for school modernization. The Republican budget fails 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.
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.
The tax cuts passed by the Congress this year - together with the substantial tax cuts supported by the Congressional majority for next year - would drain over $2 trillion of the surplus, returning America to deficits and leaving no money for key priorities. At the same time, the Congressional budget would cut domestic priorities $28 billion below the President's level, an average cut of 9 percent.