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                  Office of the Press Secretary
                       (Augusta, Georgia)                 
For Immediate Release                                   February 5, 1997     
                        AT EDUCATION DISCUSSION
                            Athletic Center
                        Augusta State University                         

1:17 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I want to thank all of you for agreeing to be part of this. And I'll be very brief because I want to hear from you.

I very much appreciate the fact that Senator Coverdell and Senator Cleland and Congressman Norwood came down with me today, along with Governor and Mrs. Miller. And I wanted to, after the State of the Union last night, which I believe was the most extensive treatment a President has ever given to the question of education in the State of the Union -- I wanted to come here because I know a lot about what you've done here and what you're trying to do, and I think it's very important that the American people respond to the challenge that I laid out last night to make American education the best in the world, to understand that it won't be done overnight, and not to be afraid of trying to reach higher standards.

I went over -- and I won't belabor it now, but this is a little booklet that I had done that Secretary of Education Riley, who is here with us today, put together for us, incorporating the 10 points that I made in the State of the Union last night. But in virtually every one of these areas, the state of Georgia is trying to move forward. And that's the important thing. Whether it's opening the doors of college education with a HOPE Scholarship, or the pre-kindergarten program, or the remarkable thing you're trying to do on the Internet which will have a huge impact around the country if you do it, because then a lot of other states will get in here and help us. The Vice President and I have been trying to get all the schools hooked up by the year 2000, but we might get there ahead of time if every state would take the kind of action that you're taking here.

Then the thing that I really want to focus on is how we can achieve the objectives that were set out way back in 1989 by the governors and then President Bush -- how can we achieve those national education goals. The only way we can ever do it is if we maintain the right blend of local control of our schools, state leadership, but adherence to high national standards so everybody understands what the bar is we're trying to reach.

And what we're going to try to do is to get the states and the school districts of the country and all the teachers organizations, the other educators and the parents especially, to accept the notion that there ought to be high standards and we ought to measure to see how our kids are doing -- not to put them down, but to lift them up, and to support the whole educational process, and make a specific effort to mobilize a lot of people to make sure our children are literate and that they can read independently at the appropriate level, at least by the time they get out of the 3rd grade.

So that's what we're going to do. And I think -- what I hope will come out of this today is that by our being here people will see what you're trying to do in Georgia; they'll be interested in it; it will spark similar activities around the country and we'll see a kind of a cascading effect. You know, when the American people make up their mind to do something, they can get out ahead of the leaders in a hurry, and that's a good thing.

When we started this hooking up the Internet, for example, we went to California, which is our biggest state, and had a Net Day and hooked up 20 percent of the schools in California. And we had this organized effort to get everybody else to do it. And within no time, the amount of activity outstripped the organization; people just went on and did it, just like you're doing. And that's what you want to happen.

So I'm very hopeful, I'm very excited. And I hope that now we can just hear from you. And, Mr. Swearingen, I think you're going to run this show, so --

Q We'll try, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: -- the floor is yours.

END 1:21 P.M. EST