THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law S. 2206, the "Community Opportunities, Accountability, and Training and Educational Services Act of 1998." This legislation reauthorizes and amends Head Start, Community Services Block Grants (CSBGs), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In addition, this bill effectively completes the community empowerment agenda I proposed in 1992 by establishing a new Individual Development Account (IDA) demonstration program to empower low-income individuals and families by helping them accumulate assets for their futures.
I particularly want to thank the chief sponsors of this legislation, Senators Coats, Jeffords, Kennedy, and Dodd and Representatives Goodling, Martinez, and Clay. Let me also thank Senator Harkin and Representative Tony Hall for their efforts to champion the IDA demonstration project.
More than 33 years have passed since President Johnson signed the legislation that began the historic experiment in child development called Head Start. I am proud that since I became President, we have raised Head Start funding by more than 50 percent; increased dramatically the number of children served; and improved the quality of the program significantly. I am particularly proud that we launched Early Head Start to bring Head Start services to children through age three.
As we approach the 21st century, S. 2206 strengthens and expands Head Start -- renewing our commitment to prepare our neediest children for school and helping parents to teach and support them. The legislation continues to build on the themes first expressed in the 1994 Report of the Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion: improving program quality and accountability, responding to family needs, and strengthening partnerships with other community services. It raises qualifications for Head Start teachers; invests additional dollars in program quality improvement by increasing teacher salaries, benefits and training; and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to study the effects of these investments on children.
The bill also incorporates my recommendation to double the funding set-aside for the Early Head Start program. In light of new research on the significance of the earliest years, this expansion is an essential step to reach more of our most vulnerable infants and toddlers with critical services.
S. 2206 also includes a number of other important provisions to address the needs of low-income families. The IDA demonstration program provides incentives through Federal matching funds for low-income individuals and families to invest in their futures by saving for higher education, a first home, or to start a new small business. In addition, the bill's CSBG and LIHEAP provisions will help to address the need for critical urban and rural community development projects and heating and cooling assistance for vulnerable senior citizens, children, and persons with disabilities.
The Department of Justice advises, however, that the provision that allows religiously affiliated organizations to be providers under CSBG would be unconstitutional if and to the extent it were construed to permit governmental funding of "pervasively sectarian" organizations, as that term has been defined by the courts. Accordingly, I construe the Act as forbidding the funding of pervasively sectarian organizations and as permitting Federal, State, and local governments involved in disbursing CSBG funds to take into account the structure and operations of a religious organization in determining whether such an organization is pervasively sectarian.
Overall, the bill is a fine example of the good that can be achieved when the Congress and the Administration join together to support programs that can break the cycle of poverty and despair and create economic opportunities for our Nation's neediest families. It is with great pleasure that I sign this legislation.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, October 27, 1998. 30-30-30