THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 3, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
Edgartown Elementary School Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
10:25 A.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, everybody. I'm out here a little bit early today. I just wanted to let you know the President, at I think about 11:15 a.m., will leave -- he's going to do a drop-by at the local Oak Bluffs School. It's K through 8.
The school system here, the students come tomorrow, and they've been doing a two-day orientation, sort of, I think, district-wide with all of the teachers. And the head of this particular school wrote a letter to the President inviting him to come by and talk to the teachers. He's going to do that this morning. The pool will cover it.
He'll talk a little bit, I think, about how great it's been in Martha's Vineyard, and then talk for a few minutes about the need for national standards in education. I think some of the stuff will be similar to what you've heard in the radio address, but he'll just be talking about how important it is to demand high standards and testing, challenging students to achieve has worked; probably cite an event that Secretary of Education Riley did yesterday in Philadelphia where they're at the end of a three-year program where they've increased the academic achievement through testing and standards; and talk a little bit about how this should not be a partisan issue and there are some efforts underway to offer an amendment to block the Department of Education spending on developing a test which would certainly set back any effort to move towards national standards in testing.
Anyway, he'll do that and then go back, and I don't really yet have a sense of what the rest of the day looks like.
Q Will we hear those remarks in here live?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me see if we can work that out. I, frankly, didn't think of it until about two minutes ago when somebody else asked me that. If not, we'll obviously get a transcript back as soon as we can, but we'll try to do that.
Q Are we likely to see some movement on that next week when the President gets back?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's likely that there will be some movement in the House this week. The particular appropriations bill that Congressman Goodling has been talking about attaching an amendment to I believe may come up as early as tomorrow.
Q Joe, would the President veto that bill if the Goodling amendment survived in it?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we've moved to that point yet. As you know, the Secretary of Education has suggested -- has recommended a veto on this particular issue. We have sent up a SAP, I believe it was late last night or early this morning, which I'll try to get a copy as soon as I have it where within that SAP is a senior advisors' recommendation to veto. But I think we're still hoping that we can make the case that standards is one of the most important challenges facing our nation and our educational system, and not have to invoke a presidential veto.
Q Is he going to, at all, touch on the issue the Education Department has had to quit accepting applications for student loans? Goodling has also criticized --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes -- I don't expect that to come up today, no.
Q What's the latest for the administration to say about that issue?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't really have much to add beyond what I've seen the spokesman at the Department of Education on the backlog. I don't have any more current information.
Q Joe, Goodling's argument is that there are already enough tests and that we already know what's wrong with the education system and that passing this is like using a speedometer to make a faster car, or whatever. But how does the administration respond to that argument?
MR. LOCKHART: We respectfully disagree with Congressman Goodling. And I think if you look at the pilot program that the Philadelphia School Board used, which they announced yesterday, they showed an increase of five percentage points in the proportion of students at a basic level or higher in nearly all grades and subjects, a reading increase of more than five percentage points in proportion of students achieving at the basic, proficient and advanced level, and in science an increase of nearly nine points among 4th graders. And I think those sorts of programs make the case for demanding high standards among students all across the country.
Q How much money is involved in this, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: As far as what the Department of Education -- I don't have a figure. I'll track down a figure. And I don't think it's a huge appropriation, but I think what the attempt by some who disagree with us on this are hoping to shut the whole program down by forbidding spending any money at all on testing.
Q It's a rolling appropriation; it starts at a relatively small amount, and then --
MR. LOCKHART: I think one of the things that we have talked about is sending up legislation to have the NAGB Board -- the National Assessment Governing Board -- actually administer work towards developing and administering these tests to make sure that everyone understands this is nonpartisan. But that's legislation that hasn't been introduced or passed, and in effect, what -- defunding or barring funding at the Department of Education would basically bring this effort to a halt. And we just find that to be unacceptable.
Q One of the things Goodling has said is that it's not a partisan issue, but he says the opposition is powerful because conservatives are opposed to anything that has national in it, and liberals are opposing to anything that has testing in it; so he says he has a lot of support, not just partisan support.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's his political assessment. He's well within his rights to make that political assessment. We believe that there's a national consensus for higher standards and achieving higher educational standards through this effort and through this program, and we think this is the way it should go.
Q Joe, if there's a consensus, it would appear a number of the people you have invited in to talk about racial issues are not part of that consensus. They told us when they came a few weeks ago that they felt that these tests were arguably racially discriminatory. Is the administration doing anything to address their concerns?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any specific information on any specific actions we've taken. We certainly have been listening and consulting widely on this, but I think when I talk about a consensus I think if you look at some of the surveys that have been done by independent organizations, people think this will work. And we believe that it's really the important -- if not the most important challenge, one of the most important challenges we face as we move toward the 21st century and developing a world-class education system.
Q How do you come to the conclusion that there is a national consensus when, in the seven months since the President unveiled this program, only six states have embraced it?
MR. LOCKHART: This is an ongoing process, and we have six states, we have many large school districts. You're looking at more than 20 percent of -- covering more than 20 percent of the students, and we're continuing to work on this effort. But I think the point we're making here now is that this is not the point where we should take a step back and shut down this program, which is, I think, what the amendment that has been discussed, being offered, would do, by defunding it at the Department of Education.
Q Are you counting on success in Congress this week?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think Congress has just come back from a long recess, so we're still assessing where we are.
Q So this is their issue; do you think that you will prevail?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we'll be in a better position to know in the coming days, and it is an important issue and it's one of the reasons we think we're going to take another opportunity today to talk about it.
Q Is Massachusetts one of the six states?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, Massachusetts was one of the first states.
Q So it's like preaching to the choir.
MR. LOCKHART: It's one of the states, and as you know, as the President often does, he highlights the best practices around the country. And he's happy to be here in Massachusetts, which is one of the first states to sign on.
Q Joe, on another subject -- anything more on who might accompany the First Lady on Friday on her trip to London?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't know. And I expect that we might get some more logistical information released out of the First Lady's Office maybe later today, maybe tomorrow.
On that front, I went back over the transcript yesterday and I even confused myself on the whole issue of official versus unofficial. Let me take another crack at it here; I think I left some people confused.
The First Lady certainly -- this is an official trip for her. She's going as the First Lady, and it's an official trip for her. The invitation that came to her was certainly the official invitation of the people issuing the invitations. The one point that I was trying to make yesterday was that the family -- the Spencer family and the Royal family are issuing the invitations not necessarily on the basis of official positions, but on people with special personal associations. So that was the distinction I was trying to draw. I think I did it much to widely. But it's certainly, from our point of view, she's going over there on an official -- this is not a personal visit for her.
Q Is there an official delegation, a state delegation going?
Q -- a murky issue. Is she representing the government of the United States, or not?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, she's going, and she will represent the government.
Q The government of the United States?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q So, in other words, you were -- you stated your position incorrectly yesterday, not merely --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Well, in that sense. And what I thought I did was, was when I came back the second time I thought I had cleared it up.
Q But it's not a state delegation?
MR. LOCKHART: That is correct. It is not a delegation, in fact; it is --
Q Explain the difference, then. She is representing the government, but it's not a state delegation -- just define that for me.
MR. LOCKHART: Because it's not a state funeral.
Q And it was Buckingham Palace's and the Spencer family's decision not to invite the President? Is that --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. In consultation, they felt that it was most appropriate for the First Lady.
Q So it's basically -- the difference is between a state visit and an official visit.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Any more on what she's likely to do there, who she'll see, if anyone?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't have anything more. Again, I hope to get some logistical information. It will be released out of the First Lady's Office in Washington, but as soon as they're ready to release it, they'll get it up to us.
Q Will she come back here and join the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Do you know what time he might leave on Sunday?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Is Chelsea staying until Sunday?
MR. LOCKHART: As far as I know, yes. I haven't heard anything to the contrary.
Q Joe, on another subject, does the White House know that some of the so-called "soft money" that Al Gore's phone calls actually turned out to be hard money?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that was something -- I mean, certainly I wasn't aware of any of that, and I think that the best place to go for that is the DNC, and also to either Lorraine or Ginny in the Vice President's Office.
Q As a practical matter, did you know that it's standard operating procedure for them to max out the soft money and make it hard money up to $20,000 and then use whatever is left over as soft money?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware. I certainly wasn't aware of that, but -- and I'm not sure. Again, you should check with the Vice President's Office -- put that question to them.
Q With the Congress back, can you update us on the White House efforts to get William Weld confirmed?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. He's doing a series of one-on-one meetings with senators. He was in the -- came by the White House last night, met with some of the President's advisors to talk about where it was. And we hope he can make some headway this week via these one-on-one meetings.
Q Who did he meet with at the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: I know John Podesta was there; I'm not sure who else.
Q There's no one-on-one with Senator Helms, is there?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Is the White House trying to arrange for such a meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that we've certainly been talking to Senator Helms's office. I'm not quite sure whether it's the State Department person or the White House person. And I know that Governor Weld would be anxious to go up and sit down and talk to the Senator.
Q Do you know if Secretary Albright has had a formal meeting with Senator Helms on this issue?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know if they've sat down -- I know they've talked on the phone. I don't know what's gone on recently since the congressional recess. I know she's out of the country now on personal travel, so I don't suspect that anything is going on this week.
Q Does the President have any plans to meet with Gerry Adams when he comes over here?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Anybody at the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Actually, Gerry Adams is in Washington today. He's meeting with Sandy Berger at the White House. He's also meeting with the Secretary of Commerce this afternoon to discuss U.S. trade and investment opportunities in Northern Ireland.
Q What will he be discussing with Sandy Berger?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he will be reviewing the Northern Ireland peace process.
Q To take you back to the funeral, there are some reports today that the White House has come under a lot of criticism for Mrs. Clinton's going and not Mr. Clinton's. Can you talk about that and have you gotten phone calls?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any phone calls or any criticism. I think that, given the nature of the event and the wishes of the people putting it together, that she is the right and most appropriate choice.
Q Has he expressed a personal thing -- "gee, I'd like to go, but it's not appropriate"?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's very comfortable with -- again, given the nature of the event, that she's the most appropriate, based on her personal association and based on the feeling that was conveyed through various sources that she was a person that she, the First Lady, was someone that Princess Diana admired.
Q Is he disappointed that they didn't want him?
MR. LOCKHART: No. He thinks that it's very appropriate that the First Lady attends.
Q What did he talk about Monday when he talked with Tony Blair on the telephone?
MR. LOCKHART: They talked a bit, sharing some memories of Princess Diana, and then reviewed some issues including the Northern Ireland peace process, the Middle East process and a little bit on Bosnia.
Q What was this, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: The President spoke with Tony Blair on the telephone.
Q What is the U.S. outlook for the Northern Ireland peace process?
MR. LOCKHART: We welcome the inclusion -- the announcement last week that -- including Sinn Fein and the peace talks, and welcome the conditions to make that possible to move towards a lasting peace.
Q Didn't we ask yesterday if he made calls?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and at the time, I was not aware of that and only subsequently we became aware of that.
Q Did he call anyone else?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q No one from the Spencer family, no one from --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Did she call?
Q Who called who?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe he placed the call.
Q Because he was seeking guidance about the funeral?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he wanted to check in with him, and they spent some time talking about just shared memories, given what the British people and the Prime Minister -- what they were going through.
Q Did they talk about representation at the funeral?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure specifically, exactly how it got talked about. I think it was more talking about what -- sharing different memories. And then I think there was at least a good bit of the conversation moved on to some of the business matters that I've detailed earlier.
Q Did she place any calls?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware, but I honestly haven't checked on that, so you might check with her office.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:45 A.M. EDT