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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 31, 1998
                             TO THE NATION
                     Glen Forest Elementary School
                         Falls Church, Virginia

10:06 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm speaking to you today from the Glen Forest Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, where I'm joined by students, parents and teachers to talk about a problem they understand all too well: the urgent need in America for school construction. In fact, I'm speaking to you from one of nine trailer classrooms that sit outside the schoolhouse on what used to be a playground, because there's simply not enough room inside for all the students. And the 10th trailer goes up in a matter of days.

Falls Church is not the only place with this problem. Rundown schools and rising enrollments have made these trailers an increasingly common sight all over our country. Too many children are going to school every day in trailers like this one. In other schools, class is held in gymnasiums and cafeterias. I've even heard some stories of classes being held in closets. Crumbling walls and ceilings have forced still other schools to bus their students to neighboring facilities.

With a record number of school buildings in disrepair, especially in our larger cities, and school enrollments all over America at record highs and rising by the millions, the need to renew our nation's public schools has never been more pressing. I've said many times that in this increasingly global world where what you earn depends upon what you learn, improving education must be our nation's top priority for all our children.

For nearly six years now I've done everything I could to meet that challenge. I'm especially proud of the victories for America's children our administration fought for and won in the balanced budget Congress passed just last week. We fought for and won new investments, from child literacy to college mentoring, from after-school programs to summer school programs, to opening the doors of college even wider by helping more people with financial aid. All these things will help all our children reach their highest potential no matter where they start out in life and where they go to school.

Perhaps even more important, we fought for and won an unprecedented commitment to put 100,000 new well-trained teachers in our nation's classrooms, to reduce class size, decrease discipline problems and increase student learning. But you don't have to be a math whiz to know that more teachers and smaller classes means we also need more classrooms. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in Congress failed the simple test to pass my school construction initiative to help communities build, repair and modernize 5,000 schools around our country.

I'm disappointed that Congress also blocked our efforts to raise academic standards and strengthen accountability in our schools. At a time when our children's education matters more than ever to our children's future, and to our nation's strength in the 21st century, there are still even some Republicans in Congress who would shut down the Department of Education.

Now, in just a few days Americans will go to the polls to elect the next Congress. And there's a lot at stake. Our children don't need another two years of partisanship -- they need two years of progress, of putting people over politics. And we need a Congress that doesn't retreat from our commitment to hire 100,000 teachers; a Congress that makes a commitment to modern schools so those teachers can teach in classrooms, not in trailers; a Congress that puts aside partisanship and puts our children's future first.

The American people have the power to elect that kind of Congress. Our children are counting on us to do it. So this Tuesday let me urge all of you, without regard to your party, please, go out and vote for a Congress that will strengthen education and strengthen our nation for the 21st century.

Thanks for listening.

END 10:10 A.M. EST