THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The vote by a narrow majority of the U.S. Senate to support the Gorton Amendment undermines the bipartisan spirit of cooperation that is so vital to improving American education. At worst, this decision to block grant education programs is, as Secretary Riley said, a "back-door attempt to kill off the Department of Education." At best, the vote was a hasty, ill-considered decision that would have a serious impact on our schools.
I welcome the Senate's overwhelming support for my proposal to offer states and communities voluntary national tests in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. However, the adoption of the Gorton Amendment less than two hours later eliminated the very funding needed to continue development of these tests.
The Gorton Amendment would halt many of our most successful efforts to improve education, including our efforts to get computers into every classroom; raise standards through Goals 2000; establish more charter schools; assist young people in making the transition from school to work; help parents and schools keep our children safe and drug-free; and create more opportunities to help immigrant children learn English and stay in school. The Amendment would seriously harm the Title I program, which provides extra help to low-income students so they can master the basic skills of reading and math and reach high academic standards. It also undermines programs targeted to help gifted and talented students, support arts education, and promote exciting new efforts to create technology partnerships. Further, this amendment would slash funds used to help adults with severe disabilities obtain employment.
This is not a vote, as some would suggest, about who controls public education. Rather it is a vote about whether the Federal government will maintain its commitment to help local communities strengthen accountability and raise academic standards in basic skills, improve teaching and learning, assist parents and schools in keeping children safe and drug-free, promote public school choice for parents and students, and prepare all of our students for the 21st Century.
The Department of Education has historically targeted its funding to schools that serve disadvantaged students. If the Gorton Amendment became law, the wealthiest school districts would be the winners and the rest of our communities would inevitably be the losers.
Politics must stop at the schoolhouse door. The Gorton Amendment is unacceptable. I understand a similar provision may be offered in the House. Let me be clear. If necessary, I will use my veto power to make sure that no such provision becomes the law of the land.