THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
HONORING TEACHERS OF THE YEAR AND STRENGTHENING PUBLIC SCHOOLS April 24, 1998
"To have the best schools, we must have the best teachers . . . We should reward and recognize our best teachers."
President Clinton, 1997 State of the Union Address
Today, in a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House, President Clinton honored the National and State Teachers of the Year. In his remarks, the President thanked the teachers for their efforts to bring excellence to our schools, and criticized the Senate for recent actions taken that undermine public education.
PRESIDENT CLINTON RECOGNIZES NATIONAL AND STATE TEACHERS OF THE YEAR.
Each April, the President introduces the National Teacher of the Year to the American people in a ceremony held at the White House. The National Teacher of the Year program began in 1952, and continues as the oldest and most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. Cosponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Magazine, the National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing the major education organizations. The 1998 National Teacher of the Year, Philip Bigler, teaches at Thomas Jefferson High Shool for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. He will spend the year traveling nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for the teaching profession. Fifty-four State Teachers of the Year, including DOD schools, Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia will be represented at today's ceremony. (See attached sheet)
CHALLENGING CONGRESS TO STRENGTHEN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND PROMISING TO VETO SENATE EDUCATION MEASURE.
President Clinton underscored his commitment to strengthening public schools by raising standards, increasing accountability, expanding choice, and investing in quality. He called on Congress to support his call for national standards and tests in the basic skills, smaller classes in grades 1-3, and a national effort to address education infrastructure needs. President Clinton reiterated that he would veto H.R. 2646 -- the Coverdell bill -- as passed by the Senate yesterday, because it is bad education policy and bad tax policy. Instead of targeting limited Federal resources to build stronger public school, this proposal would divert needed resources from public schools. In addition, the bill provides the families of public school students an average of only $7 in tax benefits in 2002, while disproportionately benefiting the highest-income tax payers.
The President also assailed Republican led Senate votes on several key amendments. The Republicans:
Rejected an effort to modernize 5,000 public schools. The Senate defeated an amendment that would have allowed for nearly $22 billion in bonds for modernizing public schools. This action leaves communities and states to cope on their own with record student enrollments and deteriorating public school buildings.
Rejected efforts to reduce class size. The Senate defeated a Sense of the Senate resolution supporting the President's plan to reduce class size to a national average of 18 students in grades 1-3 by hiring an additional 100,000 teachers.
Blocked national tests. The Senate voted to deny parents information about whether their children meet widely accepted national standards in the basic skills, by halting the development of national tests in 4th grade reading and 8th grade mathematics.
REWARDING EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING AND SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS.
President Clinton expressed his strong opposition to a provision in a House bill that would eliminate funding for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and nongovernmental body devoted to strengthening the teaching profession by developing rigorous standards of excellence in teaching. The Board has been at the forefront of efforts at the national and state levels to strengthen teaching in America, and has received bipartisan support in the Congress and in both the Bush and the Clinton Administrations. By defining standards of excellence for experienced teachers, the Board helps to focus and upgrade teacher training, recognize and reward outstanding teachers, and keep our best teachers in the classroom where they are most needed. The President pledged to work with Congress to delete this provision before the Higher Education Act reaches his desk.