Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 8, 1998
Class-Size Reduction and Teacher Quality Act
The President today forwarded to the Congress a legislative
proposal to help States and school districts recruit, train, and hire
100,000 additional teachers in order to reduce the average class size
to 18 in grades 1 through 3. The legislation would also assist school
districts in ensuring that the new teachers hired, in the national
effort to reduce class sizes, have the skills and training needed to
educate their students to high standards.
Need for the Bill
The need for this legislation is clear. As schools across the
Nation have struggled to accommodate increasing enrollments, educators
and parents have become increasingly concerned about the impact of
class size on teaching and learning, particularly in the early
elementary grades, where students learn reading and other basic skills.
This concern is justified: rigorous research has shown that students
in smaller classes, especially in early grades, make greater
educational gains and maintain those gains over time. Moreover, the
benefits of smaller classes are greatest for poor, minority, and
inner-city children, the children who often face the greatest
challenges in meeting high educational standards.
Smaller classes will have the greatest impact on student learning
if the new teachers brought into the classroom are well qualified to
teach reading and to take advantage of smaller learning environments.
For this reason, the proposal emphasizes not just class-size reduction
but also educator professional development, and it will give school
districts adequate time to recruit and train staff while phasing in
Summary of the Proposal
The bill would provide $20.8 billion in mandatory appropriations
over a 10-year period, beginning with $1.1 billion in FY 1999.
This proposal is fully paid for in the President's FY 1999 Budget,
and therefore would not reduce the budget surplus.
The Department of Education would distribute these funds to
States on the basis of each State's share of funding under the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I program (which
provides formula grants primarily on the basis of counts of
children living in poverty).
States, in turn, would distribute the funds to school districts
that have the most crowded classes, in grades 1 through 3, and
the least ability to finance class-size reductions with their
own resources. In order to ensure that the neediest districts
are treated equitably, districts with high levels of child
poverty would be guaranteed the same share of funding, under
this program, as they receive under Title I.
School districts would use most of the funds to reduce class
sizes in grades 1 through 3. Because students learn best in
small classes, at least 10 percent of the funds allocated to
school districts would be used for such activities as training
teachers in proven practices for teaching reading and in
effective practices in small classes; providing mentors or
other support for newly hired teachers; recruiting well-prepared
teachers; testing new teachers before they are hired; and
developing rigorous new assessments for new teachers.
The initiative would help ensure teacher quality by requiring
States to give teacher competency tests to new teachers hired
under this initiative, and it would help States adopt rigorous
assessments of teaching proficiency and upgrade certification
requirements for new teachers.
The Federal Government cannot, and should not, bear the entire
cost of making reductions in class sizes; rather, this should be
a shared local, State, and Federal responsibility. For this
reason, the bill would require school districts, except the
neediest ones, to provide a portion of the costs under the
program. It would set a matching rate of up to 35 percent,
depending on the poverty rate of the district.
The proposal stresses accountability for results. Schools and
school districts participating in the program would issue report
cards to parents and the public, documenting progress in reducing
class size, recruiting well-prepared teachers, and, most
importantly, improving reading performance in the early grades.
Schools whose students fail to make reading gains, over time,
would be required to undertake serious improvement actions or,
ultimately, lose program funding.