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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 13, 1998
                         AND MORE MODERN SCHOOLS
                            October 13, 1998 

Smaller Class Sizes and More Modern Schools Help Raise Student Achievement.

However, Class Sizes Remain High and Many of Our Schools Are Falling Down. Today, the average class size in grades one through three is 22 students. And a recent GAO study showed how much work needs to be done to help modernize our schools: the estimated cost of bringing the Nation's schools into good overall condition is $112 billion, with one-third of all schools in need of extensive repair or replacement.

President Clinton's Proposal To Cut Class Sizes And Modernize 5,000 Schools.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore Will Fight To Ensure That Class Size Reduction and School Modernization Are Included In This Year's Budget. In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton said, "My balanced budget will help to hire 100,000 new teachers... to reduce class size in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades to an average of 18 students... [and include] a school construction tax cut to help communities modernize or build 5,000 schools." Since then, the President has been fighting to enact his class size reduction initiative and his school modernization tax credit proposal. The Administration is eager to work with the Congress to get the job done -- and Republicans in Congress should agree with the President and parents that smaller classes and more modern schools are a top priority.


President Clinton is fighting for his smaller class size proposal to help communities and school districts reduce class size to a national average of 18 in grades one to three. The initiative would provide $1.1 billion in fiscal year 1999 -- and $12.4 billion over seven years -- to help make sure that every child receives personal attention, gets a solid foundation for further learning, and learns to read independently and well by the end of third grade. The initiative would reduce class size by providing funds to help local school districts hire and pay the salaries of an additional 100,000 teachers. States would receive funds to boost teacher quality through teacher training, recruitment, and testing, and new teachers would be required to pass state competency tests. The President's initiative would:

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

Make Sure These Teachers Are Well Prepared to Teach. 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 percent 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 percent, 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.

                            MAKE A DIFFERENCE 

According to a May 1998 Department of Education report -- which analyzed the data and findings from the most carefully designed research studies on class size -- the academic research shows that:

Smaller Class Size Increases Student Achievement. The report found that reducing class size from substantially above 20 students per class to below 20 students leads to gains in student achievement with the performance of the average student moving from the 50th percentile to somewhere above the 60th percentile. According to studies, students from smaller classes in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Tennessee outperformed their peers in larger classes. According to a follow-up study, students from smaller classes in Tennessee continued to outperform their peers in all academic subjects even after returning to larger classes in the 4th grade. An analysis of data on 10,000 4th graders in 203 school districts and 10,000 8th graders in 182 school districts across the United States shows that students in smaller classes performed better in 4th grade and 8th grade than comparable students in larger classes.

Smaller Classes Reduce Discipline Problems and Increase Instruction Time for Teachers. In Burke County, North Carolina, the percentage of classroom time devoted to instruction increased from 80 percent to 86 percent, while the time devoted to non-instructional activities such as discipline decreased from 20 percent to 14 percent when class size was reduced. In Tennessee, students from the STAR program worked harder and caused fewer discipline problems than students from larger classes even after the STAR students returned to large classrooms.

Smaller Classes with Well-Prepared Teachers Make a Difference. Smaller classes will boost student achievement the most when teachers are prepared to teach well in these classes. A review of more than 100 research studies indicates that positive effects of smaller classes were more likely if teachers change their instructional methods and classroom procedures in the smaller classes. Class size reduction efforts resulting in student achievement gains in Wisconsin and North Carolina included a strong focus on professional development for teachers.

Smaller Classes Make the Greatest Impact in the Early Grades and for Disadvantaged and Minority Students. The clearest evidence of positive effects of smaller classes on student performance are in the primary grades, particularly first through third grade. Research on class size reduction efforts in Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Carolina shows clear academic gains for students in smaller classes through the third grade. (Studies questioning the impact of class size have often focused on class size variation across all grade levels.) The national study of 10,000 4th graders and 10,000 8th graders found the greatest impact of smaller classes on inner-city youth.


In order for students to learn and to compete in the global economy, schools must be well-equipped and they must be able to accommodate smaller class sizes. To address these and other critical needs, President Clinton is fighting for Federal tax credits to pay interest on nearly $22 billion in bonds to build and renovate public schools. This new initiative provides tax credits in lieu of interest payments for investors in two types of School Modernization Bonds: Qualified School Construction Bonds and an expansion of the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (which were created last year). The Department of the Treasury estimates that the revenue loss associated with the bonds would be $5 billion over 5 years and more than $11 billion over 10 years.

Qualified School Construction Bonds:

$19.4 billion in zero-interest bonds ($9.7 billion in 1999 and $9.7 billion in 2000) is proposed for construction and renovation of public school facilities. The Department of the Treasury would allocate the rights to offer these special 15-year bonds to states, territories, and certain school districts that have submitted school construction plans to the Secretary of Education.

Half of the bond authority would be allocated to the 100 school districts with the largest number of low-income children, in proportion to their share of funds under the Title I Basic Grant formula in the preceding year. In addition, up to 25 additional school districts that are in particular need of assistance, such as districts with a low level of resources for school construction or a high level of enrollment growth, could receive these allocations. These funds would be spent in accordance with the school district's plans.

The other half would be allocated to states and territories to provide to school districts in need of assistance in accordance with each state's plan. The bond authority would be allocated in proportion to each State's share of funds under the Title I Basic Grant formula in the preceding year, after subtracting the Title I shares of the 100-125 school districts.

School Construction Plans: In order to receive a bond allocation, states, territories, and the eligible 100-125 school districts would be required to submit a plan to the Secretary of Education. The plans would (1) demonstrate that a comprehensive survey has been undertaken of the construction and renovation needs, such as the need to provide access to students with disabilities, in the jurisdiction and (2) describe how the jurisdiction will ensure that the bond funds are used for the purposes intended by this proposal, including the requirement that they will supplement, not supplant, amounts that would have been spent on construction and renovation in the absence of the bonds. State plans would also describe how they will ensure that localities with the greatest need -- as demonstrated by inadequate facilities coupled with a low level of resources to meet the needs -- would be served.

Qualified Zone Academy Bonds:

This program, created by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, provides a tax credit to pay interest on bonds for a variety of expenses (including building renovation) related to certain public school-business partnerships. The FY 99 Budget would expand these bonds to cover school construction, and would increase and extend the bond authority by $2.4 billion (an additional $1 billion, to $1.4 billion, in 1999, and $1.4 billion in 2000). This bond authority is allocated to States on the basis of their respective populations of individuals with incomes below the poverty line.

                        WHY SCHOOL MODERNIZATION 
                          ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED   

President Clinton's school modernization initiative is designed to address a nationwide school facilities crisis. These funds are necessary because: (1) the cost to repair existing schools is high, and states and communities can stretch their efforts and dollars further with these interest-free bonds; (2) enrollment growth is surging; and (3) better school facilities lead to better academic achievement.

The Cost to Repair Existing Schools Is High:

In a 1996 report, the General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that the cost of bringing the Nation's schools into good overall condition was $112 billion. GAO's report revealed:

According to GAO: 28,100 schools serving 15 million students have less-than-adequate heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems; 23,100 schools serving 12 million students have less-than-adequate plumbing; and 21,100 schools serving 12 million students have less-than-adequate roofs.

GAO cited horrific examples of the need for school repairs:

Enrollment Growth is Surging:

The National Center for Education Statistics projects that elementary and secondary enrollments will swell from 52.2 million in 1997 to 54.4 million in 2006. States and localities will need to build some 6,000 new schools to serve additional students in the next decade.

The Condition of Schools Is Related to Student Achievement:

Several research studies indicate that the condition of school buildings affects student achievement. For instance, one study found that students in school buildings that were in poor condition had achievement levels 6 percent below students in schools that were in fair condition and 11 percent below students in schools in excellent condition.


President Clinton's school modernization tax cut would work differently in various communities. Below are three examples that illustrate differences among communities based on their: (1) school construction needs; (2) authority to issue bonds; and (3) ability to issue bonds.

School District A -- A Rapidly Growing School District

School District A needs funds to construct additional schools to educate its rapidly growing enrollment. The state would allocate bond authority to School District A. When this community passes a bond initiative, it would then enter into an agreement with a financial company to sell the bonds to bond holders in order to raise funds to build schools in the community. The school district would use these funds to plan, design, and build additional schools. The community would repay the principal on the bonds to the bond holders, but it would not have to pay interest on the School Modernization Bonds. The bond holders would receive a tax credit equivalent to the amount of interest they would ordinarily have received on the loan.

School District B -- School Buildings in Need of Renovation

School District B needs funds to renovate its aging school buildings. This school district would receive a direct allocation of bond authority from the Federal Government because it is one of the 100 school districts with the largest number of students in poverty. This community has already passed a bond initiative, so it does not have to go to its citizens to gain the authority to issue bonds. The district is still eligible to issue School Modernization Bonds because it has not yet issued all of the bonds its citizens authorized it to issue. It would issue the bonds through a financial company to raise the funds necessary to renovate its schools. School District B would use these funds to renovate its facilities taking into account the need to accommodate modern educational technologies; provide access to individuals with disabilities; improve the energy efficiency of its buildings; and to bring its buildings, including its roofs and boilers, into good overall condition. The bond holders would be repaid as they would under the example for School District A. One difference would be that School District B would be able to use money saved from its energy bill to help it repay the principal on the loan.

School District C -- Poor Indian Reservation

This poor public school district needs funds to renovate a school and build a new school but is unable to issue bonds itself because of its small tax base. School District C would receive a heavily subsidized loan from the state. The state would subsidize the loan either by contributing the state's own funds toward the loan or by decreasing the amount of the subsidy other communities would receive under School Modernization Bonds in the state. School District C would not issue the bond itself; the state would issue it on behalf of School District C and several other school districts. School District C would use the funds to plan, design, and construct its new building and to renovate its existing school. The state could guarantee that School District C would repay the loan by retaining State aid in event that the school district stopped making payments. School District C would pay only a portion of the principal on the loan to the state because the loan is subsidized. The bond holders would be repaid as described in the above examples, except the state rather than the community would repay the principal to the bond holders.

                       IMPACT OF INADEQUATE SCHOOL 

A number of studies have shown that many school systems, particularly those in urban and high-poverty areas, are plagued by decaying buildings that threaten the health, safety, and learning opportunities of students. Good facilities appear to be an important precondition for student learning, provided that other conditions are present that support a strong academic program in the school. A growing body of research has linked student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding.

Physical Building Conditions

Decaying environmental conditions such as peeling paint, crumbling plaster, non-functioning toilets, poor lighting, inadequate ventilation, and inoperative heating and cooling systems can affect the learning as well as the health and the morale of staff and students.

Impact on Student Achievement:

A study of the District of Columbia school system found, after controlling for other variables such as a student's socioeconomic status, that students' standardized achievement scores were lower in schools with poor building conditions. Students in school buildings in poor condition had achievement that was 6 percent below schools in fair condition and 11 percent below schools in excellent condition. (Edwards, 1991)

Cash (1993) examined the relationship between building condition and student achievement in small, rural Virginia high schools. Student scores on achievement tests, adjusted for socioeconomic status, were found to be up to 5 percentile points lower in buildings with lower quality ratings. Achievement also appeared to be more directly related to cosmetic factors than to structural ones. Poorer achievement was associated with specific building condition factors such as substandard science facilities, air conditioning, locker conditions, classroom furniture, more graffiti, and noisy external environments.

Similarly, Hines' (1996) study of large, urban high schools in Virginia also found a relationship between building condition and student achievement. Indeed, Hines found that student achievement was as much as 11 percentile points lower in substandard buildings as compared to above-standard buildings.

A study of North Dakota high schools, a state selected in part because of its relatively homogeneous, rural population, also found a positive relationship between school condition (as measured by principals' survey responses) and both student achievement and student behavior. (Earthman, 1995)

McGuffey (1982) concluded that heating and air conditioning systems appeared to be very important, along with special instructional facilities (i.e., science laboratories or equipment) and color and interior painting, in contributing to student achievement. Proper building maintenance was also found to be related to better attitudes and fewer disciplinary problems in one cited study.

Research indicates that the quality of air inside public school facilities may significantly affect students' ability to concentrate. The evidence suggests that youth, especially those under ten years of age, are more vulnerable than adults to the types of contaminants (asbestos, radon, and formaldehyde) found in some school facilities (Andrews and Neuroth, 1988).

Impact on Teaching:

Lowe (1988) interviewed State Teachers of the Year to determine which aspects of the physical environment affected their teaching the most, and these teachers pointed to the availability and quality of classroom equipment and furnishings, as well as ambient features such as climate control and acoustics as the most important environmental factors. In particular, the teachers emphasized that the ability to control classroom temperature is crucial to the effective performance of both students and teachers.

A study of working conditions in urban schools concluded that "physical conditions have direct positive and negative effects on teacher morale, sense of personal safety, feelings of effectiveness in the classroom, and on the general learning environment." Building renovations in one district led teachers to feel "a renewed sense of hope, of commitment, a belief that the district cared about what went on that building." In dilapidated buildings in another district, the atmosphere was punctuated more by despair and frustration, with teachers reporting that leaking roofs, burned out lights, and broken toilets were the typical backdrop for teaching and learning." (Corcoran et al., 1988)

Corcoran et al. (1988) also found that "where the problems with working conditions are serious enough to impinge on the work of teachers, they result in higher absenteeism, reduced levels of effort, lower effectiveness in the classroom, low morale, and reduced job satisfaction. Where working conditions are good, they result in enthusiasm, high morale, cooperation, and acceptance of responsibility."

A Carnegie Foundation (1988) report on urban schools concluded that "the tacit message of the physical indignities in many urban schools is not lost on students. It bespeaks neglect, and students' conduct seems simply an extension of the physical environment that surrounds them." Similarly, Poplin and Weeres (1992) reported that, based on an intensive study of teachers, administrators, and students in four schools, "the depressed physical environment of many schools... is believed to reflect society's lack of priority for these children and their education."


Overcrowded schools are a serious problem in many school systems, particularly in the inner cities, where space for new construction is at a premium and funding for such construction is limited. As a result, students find themselves trying to learn while jammed into spaces never intended as classrooms, such as libraries, gymnasiums, laboratories, lunchrooms, and even closets. Although research on the relationship between overcrowding and student learning has been limited, there is some evidence, particularly in high-poverty schools, that overcrowding can have an adverse impact on learning.

A study of overcrowded schools in New York City found that students in such schools scored significantly lower on both mathematics and reading exams than did similar students in underutilized schools. In addition, when asked, students and teachers in overcrowded schools agreed that overcrowding negatively affected both classroom activities and instructional techniques. (Rivera-Batiz and Marti, 1995)

Corcoran et al. (1988) found that overcrowding and heavy teacher workloads created stressful working conditions for teachers and led to higher teacher absenteeism.

Crowded classroom conditions not only make it difficult for students to concentrate on their lessons, but inevitably limit the amount of time teachers can spend on innovative teaching methods such as cooperative learning and group work or, indeed on teaching anything beyond the barest minimum of required material. In addition, because teachers must constantly struggle simply to maintain order in an overcrowded classroom, the likelihood increases that they will suffer from burnout earlier than might otherwise be the case.