THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Boston, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 2, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR DOMESTIC POLICY, BRUCE REED Jackson Mann Elementary School Brighton, Massachusetts
3:17 P.M. EST
MR. REED: Okay. We came here to Boston today to make two main points. First, that the balanced budget that the President put forward yesterday includes substantial new investments in education, including a $200 million accountability fund, which will go to states and school districts, to identify and turn around the lowest performing schools; $600 million for after-school programs, with a priority for communities that end social promotion, which is tripling that program over last year; $1.4 billion for the 100,000 teacher program to reduce class size in the early grades, which is up from $1.2 billion the year before; and reissuing the proposal for a tax credit to build or modernize 5,000 schools.
And as the President will point out today, over the last six years we've wiped out a $300 billion deficit and at the same time nearly doubled investments in educational training.
The second point that the President is going to make today, in more detail than he has in the past, is that we welcome the great debate we're going to have in Congress this year on which way the country should go with education. As I said to some of you earlier, it may be Groundhog Day, but that doesn't mean that the new Congress has to repeat the old debate about education. We believe that smaller classes and modern school buildings and qualified teachers ought to be national priorities. There are some in Congress who don't share that view. We're happy to have that debate and we're going to keep pressing to ensure that no child in America is taught by an unprepared teacher or trapped in a failing school.
All the proposals that the President has put forward are based on initiatives around the country that we know work. And we have a responsibility to the taxpayers and to the school children of America to invest in what works and stop investing in what doesn't.
So let me stop there. Questions? Come on, bring it on. (Laughter.)
Q Bruce, how are you going to decide who is an unprepared teacher? How are you going to judge that?
MR. REED: We're not going to tell states and school districts what to teach, how to teach it, what standards to set. They set their own standards. All we're saying is that whatever standards they set for their students and teachers, they have to make sure that the students and teachers meet those standards.
So, for example, there's about 50,000 teachers around America who are on what's called emergency certification, which takes place where school districts have waived their own rules -- they've put an unqualified teacher in the classroom, someone who doesn't even measure up to the standards that the state and school district have set. And our proposal says that has to stop.
Q Yes, but, Bruce, the reason they do that is because they have a teacher shortage. I mean, how do you address the teacher shortage that is creating this?
MR. REED: We think that you need a three-part strategy to address the shortage of teachers. First, we need to do a better job of providing teacher training. Our budget has got $180 million as part of the class size proposal for teacher training and we have a 53 percent increase in teacher training funds, generally. Second, we need to expand the pool and reach out to attract more talent to the teaching profession, and that's why we've got a five-fold increase in teacher scholarships to young people who agree to teach in low-income neighborhoods where the real shortages are.
The President has also put forward an $18 million Troops to Teachers program because we believe that mid-career military can make a real difference in our schools. And then the third thing you've got to do is make schools and classrooms more attractive. Lowering class size is a way to make teaching a more attractive profession. The same is true with enforcing school discipline and keeping schools safe.
Q Do state and local school administrators really want the federal government looking over their shoulder?
MR. REED: These are all common sense ideas. We didn't invent them in Washington. They come from schools and school districts around the country that are pioneering this kind of reform. We give them all kinds of flexibility, as I said. All we're saying is that whatever standards they set, they have to meet. And we think that this is a basic responsibility to the taxpayers. You know, I don't see any other $15 billion a year programs that Congress is saying, we don't care about the results. We think it's time to insist on results from this one.
Q But how is this supposed to work, though? If they're setting their own standards and determining whether their schools are making them, where does the federal government come in and say, well, you're not getting any money because you're not? Do they have to self-report that they're not making or meeting their own standards?
MR. REED: We require them to do annual school report cards that tell what they're doing with class size, with teacher quality and so on. And they have to make this information public, as well as make it known to us.
We think that, with enough public pressure, this is what school districts around the country are going to want to do, but it's important -- it'll actually make it easier for them to do it, if we're pushing this agenda.
Okay? Thank you very much.
END 3:25 P.M. EST