THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT GOALS 2000 CEO MEETING
The Oval Office
2:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. As you can see, I'm about to have a meeting here with some distinguished American business executives who support the idea that our most important agenda here in government is to advance the cause of education, and they have in particular been good supporters of the Goals 2000 program in which 48 of our 50 states are now participating, and which is the most grass-roots-oriented reform program the United States Department of Education has ever promoted for improving the quality of education through reforms at the state, school district and school level to provide more technology, to raise standards, to have smaller classes to do a whole range of things that will make education better.
There is a way to balance the budget without destroying the Goals 2000 program. The proposed congressional majority budget would get rid of Goals 2000, and it would deprive 44 million students of the opportunities that they would otherwise have to be in more grass-roots reform efforts.
This Goals 2000 project is the result of the recommendations we've gotten over the years from business leaders, as well as educators and, frankly, the result of all of the work that Secretary Riley and I did for more than a decade in our previous jobs. And I very much hope it can be saved, and it is not necessary to balance the budget to back up on the education commitment. I think the partnership we've enjoyed, both the bipartisan partnership between Republicans and Democrats and the partnership between business and government that we've enjoyed in this education reform effort should not be destroyed, because it doesn't have to be to balance the budget.
I'd like to ask Mr. Joe Gorman to make a couple of remarks about the program and then we'll go on with our meeting.
MR. GORMAN: Thank you, Mr. President. I would simply underscore what you have said and reiterate that we believe, in the business community, that it is a bipartisan issue, that Goals 2000 is very important; particularly, it is important to the states and local school systems in their efforts to transformationally reform themselves from the state law aspect to the classroom. And as you know, Goals 2000 provides leadership and incentive for that kind of state transformational reform. We think it's very important in that dimension.
Q Mr. President, are you also going to discuss with the CEOs the stagnant wages over the last two decades that you always keep talking about?
THE PRESIDENT: Every time I talk to business leaders I talk about that. But let me just say, as I've said on Labor Day, there are a lot of alternative explanations being offered for this, but one of the clear lessons of not only for our country, but for every wealthy country is that if we want to continue to raise incomes in a global economy, we have to raise the level of education of the work force; we've got to do it.
There are some other things we can do and that I hope we will do and some things they can do and that many of them are doing, but if we don't raise the educational level of the American work force and if we don't set up a system of real reform for excellence in our public schools and then lifetime education afterward, nothing they or we do will achieve that goal.
So I will say again, the purpose of balancing the budget is to remove the burden of debt off of our children and grandchildren and to free up more capital for private investment so that the economy will grow. The purpose of balancing the budget is not to shut the economy down by undermining our fundamental commitment to education. So the question is, how can we meet both objectives.
I've presented a plan which does that, there are lots of ways to get it done, and that's what I think we're all agreed on, again without regard to party.
Q Have you heard from the First Lady, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I had a nice talk with her. I've talked to her twice since she left for China. I talked to her after her speech. I told her I thought she had done a great job on the speech, I liked it very much, and she seemed very pleased with it and she said that the women, the many thousands of women who were there gave it a very good response.
We had a very -- we had kind of a brief conversation; the connection wasn't the greatest because I was in an airplane.
Q Was there any concern about the treatment of Secretary Shalala?
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Shalala spoke for herself on that. I thought what she said was just great. She'll do just fine. (Laughter.)
Q Any public relations --
Q Was there any concern that the First Lady's remarks might have any impact on the U.S.-Chinese relations?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think so. You know, she said -- what she said was what we have both said many, many times on the issues that affect China, and much of her speech pertained to conditions in other countries, not China, and some of it related to conditions in our country as well. So I thought it was a balanced speech. There was no attempt to single any country out. She stood up for the rights and the potential and against the abuse of women everywhere in the world.
I thought that's what made the speech powerful, that there was no attempt to have a particular political agenda or single any country out; it was a very strong speech.
Q They know who they are.
THE PRESIDENT: I was proud of her.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:07 P.M. EDT