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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Fresno, California)
For Immediate Release                                 September 12, 1996
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                             BY BRUCE REED
                      The Dailey Elementary School
                           Fresno, California

10:35 A.M. PDT

MR. REED: Okay. Go ahead and fire away, I hope I have the answers. I'm Bruce Reed.

Q Bruce, is this an alternative to the voucher or -- try any type of choice; and it's only 300 schools, so this isn't a viable alternative, charter schools?

MR. REED: Well, we think that charter schools are the wave of the future. Let me explain how a charter school works. Twenty-five states have passed laws that allow parents and teachers to form charter schools by seeking a charter or a contract from the public school system to start their own school. It's a way for them to experiment with new approaches, they get to go around the usual red tape and centralized rules.

There are 300 charter schools right now in the country. Most of them have been started in the last couple years -- 90 charter schools right here in California. The President's budget plan calls for seed capital to help start 3,000 charter schools around the country, increasing the number of schools nationwide by ten-fold over the next five years.

And we believe that charter schools are an important way to inject choice and competition into the public school system. They give parents more choices, they hold schools accountable for results and they don't take the money out of the public school system the way private school vouchers do.

Q What's the dollar figure?

Q So what's the answer to the question? This instead of vouchers?

MR. REED: Well, we're for charter schools and we oppose private school vouchers. We think it's a better way to go.

Q What's the total dollar value? You said 3,000 schools or five years?

MR. REED: It's, I believe, over $100 million over five years. This year we're giving out $17 million to 21 states and, as I said, this is seed capital. When you go to start a charter school the thing you need most is the money to get it off the ground. And once you've started a charter school, whether it makes a go of it or not depends on whether it can attract students from within the public school system.

Q What don't you like about vouchers?

MR. REED: Our principal objection is that private school vouchers divert public money out of the public school system. And we think if we're going to have good schools, raise standards, reward teachers for the good jobs the they do, that we shouldn't be taking money out of the public school system, we ought to be saving the public school system.

Q Bruce, for parents whose kids are in school's in crisis now, it would seem like it might take a while to get a charter school up and running. What's the answer to those people who say, that's fine, but I don't have two years, a voucher could help my kid right away.

MR. REED: Well, actually these things get started very quickly. As I said, there have been 25 states that have passed charter school laws, most of those in the past four years. And once a school has a charter law in place, it doesn't take much time at all. So these things are growing very rapidly around the country.

And, frankly, we want to encourage parents and teachers around the country to go out and start charter schools.

Q And to the parents whose kids are the most at risk and may be in some of the schools that the kids -- they want to try to get their kids out of necessarily, the people who would have the -- to organize charter schools?

MR. REED: Well, across the country the biggest push to start charter schools has been in areas where parents are disappointed with a school district's performance. So a lot of at-risk students get helped by these charter schools.

END 10:45 P.M. PDT