THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REPORT ON THE STATE OF AMERICAN EDUCATION
The Cabinet Room
12:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad to be here today with the Vice President and Secretary Reich, Secretary Riley, Deputy Secretary Kunin, Congressman Owens, Congresswoman Palosi, and all these distinguished education leaders.
The Secretary of Education is going to present me his draft report on the condition of education today. And since the House is about to vote on the education funding bill, I thought it was appropriate to make a brief statement.
This is a critical time for American education for at least two reasons. First of all, everybody knows that the level of education and skills of our work force will determine their ability to get and keep good jobs and to have a secure future. Secondly, the number of children in our schools is once again rising. Today, one in four Americans is in school. The need for skills development is greater than ever, and the number of people who need it is larger than ever.
I have made a proposal on education which shows that you can balance the budget and fully fund education and training in a way that's good for the economy. It's good for the economy to balance the budget; it's good for the economy to invest in education. And it is what we owe to our young people and to older people who need further education and training to get better jobs.
Our balanced budget actually increases education $41 billion over the next seven years. The bill being voted on today in the House does exactly the reverse. It dramatically cuts education -- $36 billion. It would take 180,000 children off Head Start. It would end funding for Goals 2000, which raises standards and shrinks class size, which is terribly important. It would cut one million children who are poor out of the benefits of the Title I program. It would cut 300,000 low-income students out of Pell Grants for college. It would target almost 600,000 unemployed and underemployed adults who won't be able to get job-training programs, mostly in their local community colleges, throughout this country.
This is wrong. It is simply wrong.
Before this Congress, education and training have been matters of bipartisan common ground. President Bush often talked about how proud he was of increasing Head Start. This is the first time, as far as I know, in the history of the Head Start program when the Congress is poised to reduce the number of children in Head Start.
The School-to-Work program is being cut. It's terribly important. There are a lot of young people who don't go to four-year colleges who need the opportunity to get further training after high school and good jobs. And, of course, what is being done to the college programs and the job training programs are simply unacceptable.
So, from pre-schoolers to adults, this bill is a body blow to their future and a body blow to our efforts to create a high-opportunity, high-wage economy, not a hard-work, low-wage economy. This is a decision today that will affect the incomes of the American people.
The biggest problem we've still got is that we've got good economic performance, but more than half of our people are having stagnant wages. This will make the problem worse. Under the guise of balancing the budget, we are consigning millions more Americans to a more limited future. It is wrong, and I certainly hope it is defeated today.
Q Mr. President, does it help to have Croatian forces engaging the Bosnian Serbs on the western edge?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have -- what we have cautioned the Croatians about is widening the war. We don't want to see a widening of the war. We understand their desire to relieve the pressure on Bihac. And, of course, that is a commitment the United Nations has made as well.
So we hope that whatever is done can be done without leading to a wider war. One of the prime objectives of the United States has been to try to confine the conflict to its present dimensions.
Q Mr. President, do you think that smoking among youth is --
THE PRESIDENT: I think that smoking among youths should be diminished and the government has a responsibility there. I'm looking at what our options are, and we'll have an announcement on it before too long.
Q So you support that idea?
Q Is that a yes?
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- I told you what I -- I think it's a terrible problem. We've got to do something about it. It's going up when it ought to be going down. If you want to lower health care costs, increase life expectancy and broaden the quality of life for people, reducing teenage smoking is one good way to start. There's hardly anything we could do that would have a bigger impact. The question is, exactly what should we do. I've gotten some recommendations on it and we'll have a position shortly. I just don't have an announcement to make today.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:21 P.M. EDT