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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 8, 1998
                             May 8, 1998

The President transmitted legislation to Congress today to help communities and school districts reduce class size to a national average of 18 in grades one to three. This initiative will lead to smaller classes with well-prepared teachers so that students can master the basics and learn to read well. President Clinton's initiative will:

Help Hire an Additional 100,000 Teachers to Reduce Class Size. Under this initiative, states will allocate funding to school districts to pay salaries and benefits for additional teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. Up to 90% of the funds allocated to school districts would be used for hiring teachers.

Make Sure These Teachers Are Prepared to Teach Well. States would be required to implement competency testing for new teachers, with each state selecting the tests it believes most appropriate for this purpose. Participating states and school districts would also have to ensure that individuals hired to fill these new positions be either fully certified or making satisfactory progress toward full certification.

At least 10% of the funds in this initiative would be used to promote high quality teaching by (1) training teachers in proven practices for teaching in small classes; (2) providing mentors or other support for newly hired teachers; and (3) providing incentives to recruit qualified teachers to high poverty schools. States could use a portion of their funds to toughen teacher certification requirements, as well as to develop more rigorous assessments of new teachers.

Hold Schools Accountable for Results. School districts receiving these funds would have to show that each school is making measurable progress in improving reading achievement within 3 years, or take necessary corrective actions such as providing additional teacher training, revising the curriculum, or implementing proven practices for teaching reading. School districts could lose funding if there is no subsequent improvement in reading achievement in those schools. School districts would also have to publish an annual school report card, providing parents and taxpayers with clear information on student achievement, class size, and teacher qualifications.

Target Funding to Areas of Greatest Need. The President's initiative would distribute funds to states on the basis of the Title 1 formula. Within the state, each high-poverty school district would receive the same share of these funds as it receives under Title 1; the remaining funds would be distributed within the state based on class size. Matching funds would be required from participating school districts, on a sliding scale ranging from 0-35%, with high-poverty districts contributing the least. Once a state has reached an average class size of 18 in grades 1-3, it could use these funds to further reduce class size in the early grades, or extend its efforts to other grades.