THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Chicago, Illinois) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release July 17, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION RICHARD RILEY AND PRESS SECRETARY MIKE MCCURRY
The Sheraton Hotel Chicago, Illinois
4:00 P.M. CDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. I've got Secretary Dick Riley here, always a pleasure, to tell you more about the education initiative the President outlined this morning in Pittsburgh, and will talk about in front of the National Association of Black Journalists shortly. And then some of the folks who have been working with the President on his race initiative and the advisory board -- Judy Winston, the Executive Director, I think most of you know; Lanny Kagan, who is our Deputy Director from the Domestic Policy Council; and Marie Echaveste, who is the President's Director of the Office of Public Liaison are here if anyone has got specific questions about that.
But primarily, I want Secretary Riley to answer any questions you might have about the initiative the President talked about earlier today and any other such education issues as may arise.
SECRETARY RILEY: As many of you know, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is now very much alive. And we are sending our proposal over probably within the next two or three weeks. Title V of the Higher Education Act deals with preparation of teachers, teacher colleges. There have always been a number of measures in Title V -- as I recall, 20 something -- and only one of them has ever been funded. So it's really just been kind of a shell of a title, and we really never have done anything meaningful.
The one small thing that's been funded is a minority recruitment, like a $2 million proposal that is very small. This proposal that we will make will be a new Title V that will be substantive and make sense and be different. And it has several parts to it. One of the main parts is teacher recruitment, and there's a whole section of that, trying to attract minorities into teaching, attract males into teaching, attract people into areas of study that are specially needed like the sciences or whatever.
Then another -- the other big part is in teacher preparation. We decided to really put our emphasis on up-front part of teacher preparation; that is, recruitment and teacher preparation in the first three years of teaching. So the teacher preparation part will call for the identification of what we call lighthouse colleges, teacher colleges that are exemplary, that are clearly quality teacher colleges. We will identify 10 or 15 of those. They will then connect up with 10 to 15 or whatever number of other colleges to partner with.
So these exemplary colleges will be funded, then, for the purpose of doing many of these things we're talking about. The entire amount of money is $350 million. And it's about for a five-year period, and it's about even between the recruitment and scholarship and teacher training part.
The scholarship part then will be a scholarship to students attracting them into teaching, minority students primarily and quality students with the commitment that they then would go into an urban area or a high-risk area, a high-need area and agree to teach for at least three years.
So that is that arrangement in general. Then we will have these exemplary teacher colleges all involved in that process with the colleges they will be partnering with. That's basically the plan. And it will be a live Title V that I think will be very well received.
Any questions on that or any other subject?
Q Mr. Secretary, the President seems concerned that there is a disparity between the ethnic and racial make-up of the student bodies in these high-poverty schools and the faculty racial make-up. And he says one is that student bodies are about a third minority and the teachers are about 13 percent. What does it matter what the ethnic or racial make-up of the faculty is if they are quality teachers?
SECRETARY RILEY: Well, it matters a lot. It matters because these are role models for these youngsters. It's very clear to me that we do need more male teachers; we need more minorities teachers; we need more bilingual teachers. We need teachers who are better able in the future to teach to this very diverse student body that's going to be out there. And it's a mobile student body. People are moving from place to place. People really have -- there will be more diversity than we ever dreamed of in years past preparing teachers. So I think it's very important to have a diverse faculty pool, just as diverse as the student pool.
Q So will you try to spin these scholarships then toward minorities and --
SECRETARY RILEY: Absolutely. Yes. That's part of it.
Any further questions on whatever, education?
Q Secretary Riley, on another matter that the President touched on in his speech -- he talked about the dilapidated condition of D.C. schools, schools in other cities. Specifically on D.C.'s school conditions, what beyond the tax credits that he mentioned, if anything, do you have in mind to remedy that situation?
SECRETARY RILEY: Well, as you know, the President continues to support his original proposal for helping with the funding of the interest costs on bonds that was the original proposal. It is not part of the $35 billion agreement that was reached between the President and the Speaker and Senator Lott, but beyond that, there are several other parts of his education proposal, and it is part of it. And, of course, that would benefit Washington, D.C., as well as other areas of the country.
Washington, D.C. -- a lot of things are being worked on and done that I think will begin to develop to be very interesting things. I know we've identified 23 of the elementary schools that were in greatest need, and all of those schools have been assigned one of the special programs to deal with reorganization, such as the Slavin program aligned with Temple University through our office, OERI; one of them through NIH, a program to deal with a new way of approaching elementary school children. And that's some very exciting things being done in the Washington schools. But I would really hope to begin to see some things happening there.
Q What are your own concerns about the terrible condition, physical condition of those schools in the nation's capital?
SECRETARY RILEY: Well -- and they are bad. And I think the President made that clear in his statement. I've been to a number of them, and they do need repairs in a lot of incidences. One of the problems, of course, Washington was over-built. A lot of people have moved out of Washington who had children in the schools, and so the student body population is down. The Washington school board and all have cut back, I think, 14 schools -- and I'm not directly with that, but they have made an effort to tighten that down and perhaps need our looking at some more of that. So that's one thing that is being done.
The idea in this country -- the funding of school buildings normally is a local function, and that makes Washington have a little more of a complicated situation. In every school district in America, some states are involved, primarily in the bonding aspect. But primarily it is a local function -- local taxes, local people pay for bricks and mortar, pay off the bonds, as you know, in local schools.
So I think Senator Jeffords and those are working on a way -- and Frank Raines, I know, is involved in it. I don't have the direct information of those discussions, but Washington is in a kind of a unique situation since it is kind of the federal capital of the nation.
Q Isn't there some conflict, though, between the priority that he placed on rebuilding schools today in his speech and how readily he abandoned the $5 billion proposal in the budget negotiations? He got virtually almost every other major spending priority he wanted as part of that deal.
SECRETARY RILEY: He didn't abandon, as I understand it, the $5 billion construction proposal. It was absolutely unacceptable by the other side. Now, I wasn't in those negotiations, but I think that's probably right.
Q Given that, why is -- the President talked about this the last time we were in Chicago, too, at the fundraiser with Senator Moseley Braun. He said he wanted to try and get that $5 billion proposal through next year. It was absolutely unacceptable this year; why is there any prospect that he'd be able to get it through next year?
SECRETARY RILEY: I think he was trying to work out in his agreement with the Republican leadership those things that they could agree with. And I think they did that. And I was very pleased at that; in a bipartisan way -- that's big stuff. And I'm very proud that they worked it out. Certain things they couldn't work out, and it was one of them. That doesn't mean the President doesn't continue to support those measures. And there are several of them. And he does continue to support them. And I think he has made that an issue in the country in a very unique way.
As is say, the construction thing is a local thing, but the idea of having the federal government get involved in the cost of interest on the bonds, I think, was a very unique way to approach it. I think the President's got the people's attention, and he's going to continue to talk about that. And I think you're going to see some interest develop as that happens.
I think the American people area just as interested in school construction as anything. Any group I talk with about education, it's not uncommon at all for them to come right back and talk about construction. That's something they can see.
MR. MCCURRY: Any other subjects for the day? Questions?
Q Are the Republicans eating their young, and how do you expect this will affect your negotiations with the Hill on the budget and taxes?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think that all sounds like an internal House matter to me and I categorically deny that anyone is gleefully watching those actions. But it is an internal House matter and we really shouldn't comment on internal House business.
Q Just a little bit maybe? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No. I'll refrain. I'll bite my tongue.
Q Mike, is the President going to respond to Jesse Helms' letter, that he is not -- that he has decided unilaterally not to enforce all the provisions of Helms-Burton?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to look at the letter. I have not -- not aware of that. I think the President, in extending the provisions of Title III, clearly acted within what the law allows. It allows for six-month rolling extensions, and the President set forth very clearly the reasons why he thought an extension was warranted. But we'll have to look carefully at the Chairman's letter and respectfully respond.
Q He is saying in the letter that there is a growing suspicion in Congress that the administration promised the EU not to enforce Title IV against European companies as a quid pro quo for European agreement to suspend their World Trade Organization lawsuit.
MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary. The President has a responsibility to enforce the law and he will. We have made clear to our European allies that that law is the law, and that we will enforce it. That's one reason why now Under Secretary of State Eizenstat was so adamant in pressing the European Union to join us in the cause of encouraging positive change in Cuba. And indeed, the European Union, because they adopted an action plan, as the President cited yesterday, is with us and stands with us in desiring to see positive change occur in Cuba.
Q Mike, some of the tobacco industry folks apparently are saying today that the deal should stand as it is, that the FDA provision that the President criticized is critical to making that happen, and that if this isn't done in the next few months, circumstances may change and the deal may no longer be possible.
MR. MCCURRY: That if it was not acted upon expeditiously? The President understands that that was a difficult negotiation. He has expressed his appreciation for those who participated. But at the same time, the issue here is the public health of Americans, and specifically the health of America's children. And this is an enormously complex agreement, billions and billions of dollars involved. And taking the time to precisely and carefully analyze the proposed settlement so that the President is confident that the position he takes on the settlement is the right one seems well worth it given the enormous stakes.
The President has suggested a timetable on how we can do that. We think that's a reasonable timetable. We don't think that places in jeopardy the proposed settlement.
Q John Hope Franklin is quoted as saying that the President ought not to just be focusing on groups like the NAACP for his message. Do you have any events set up in this monthly cycle that will get to a more diverse audience than that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't -- we have not formally scheduled events yet, but we certainly intend to reach out to a broad cross-section of Americans, and more importantly, to take the same message the President had today to a variety of audiences -- white and otherwise. And I think the President will find opportunities in coming months to meet with a very diverse group.
I don't think Mr. Franklin -- I don't think Professor Franklin meant any disrespect to the NAACP. He was suggesting that there is a large community of advocates on behalf of the very diverse communities that ought to be a part of this dialogue that the President is sponsoring. And the President certainly agrees with that and has already given the advisory board and White House staff instructions to reach out very broadly as we tap American public opinion about some of the issues that he's raising.
Q I think what he said, having talked to him about this, was that it's white groups that need educating and need talking to. So do you envision taking this to the North Shore in Chicago and talking among affluent suburban whites about the problems in the inner city?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. The dialogue that the President foresees cannot occur unless all are engaged, one way or another, and I do foresee that type of event. Now, we will be scheduling things later on in the year and into next year, so we don't have anything precisely we can point to you right now, but there will be opportunities like that on his calendar.
Q Did you find out, is he doing anything in particular this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: The Mayor met us as we arrived downtown here, and he spent some time with the Mayor. I think he was just taking some time off, going to do some phone calls, and then --
Q I did see a putting green outside.
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't see him on it.
Q And has he gotten any additional briefings on the Mir spacecraft and the condition there?
MR. MCCURRY: We were going to get an update relayed through the Deputy Chief of Staff to him this afternoon that we had received from Administrator Goldin. I think it's consistent with what NASA has now publicly said.
Q How specifically is the President concerned about sentiments among white Americans and fear among white Americans that this race initiative will be all about villainizing whites and that they won't want to participate because of that?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President spoke so clearly in San Diego when he launched this initiative, and in a way did so again today in Pittsburgh and will in a short while, that those fears are not well-founded. Nothing about the President's presentation would suggest that approach. His approach is one of reconciliation that brings all Americans together to celebrate our diversity and to recognize it as an element of our strength as we think about who we will be in the 21st century.
Q Why were these groups happen to be chosen as the first venue after San Diego?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they were having their convention at this point in July. I mean, it's just more the calendar than anything else.
Q Can you talk about the funeral tomorrow and why the President changed his schedule to go?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have Joe -- Joe will be able to do a little more for the pool on that. We're going to try to collect some stories in advance of tomorrow from the President. But this was a dear friend in a very politically challenging part of Arkansas who, from the President's very first campaign for Congress, was able to provide him some political support in a place where he otherwise wouldn't find any. The President has wonderful stories and memories about someone that he really cherishes as one of his very earliest political supporters.
Q One last thing on the tobacco thing. When you were talking about timing -- the other things that the tobacco industry folks were saying was that the FDA part was critical and they felt workable and that without it one of the other companies was going to walk from the table -- is that something that the administration is willing to let happen? Is it critical enough to --
MR. MCCURRY: The deal that is their deal has to be turned into legislation which can meet the President's tests and the tests the Congress would have. And that's -- the jurisdiction of the FDA is a very central element, as you've heard the President say, and it has to be precisely what's necessary to protect and guarantee the public health of Americans. And if that causes the industry to reconsider its own commitment to the settlement, then that's a consequence that will have to be accepted. But we believe that through the dialogue that we're having, we can arrive at a point that we've got an understanding of what the settlement means, a way in which it can satisfy the President's policy requirements, that can represent something important if we get to the point where we think we can move ahead with it. We think in that particular area of jurisdiction, we can find something that we be acceptable to the industry.
Q Apparently, Lanny Davis said today about the Thompson hearings that it was part of a bipartisan slashing attack. Have you heard anything to that effect? And is there any comment from --
MR. MCCURRY: I have not had an update on what happened at the committee today. I'm sorry, I just don't even know what they have done today.
Okay. We will -- Joe's taking over for the trip down for those of you who are going down to Arkansas. And he can try to get a little more.
Q You're not going to Arkansas?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Lockhart is -- was interested in going down there. (Laughter.) He's pulling rank.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm cashing in one of my many chits. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:20 P.M. CDT