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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                      (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
For Immediate Release                                     March 10, 1999


I am pleased that the Senate leadership has finally agreed to allow an up-or-down vote on an amendment to hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. Last year, with bipartisan support, Congress enacted a down payment on this class size initiative, and school districts across the country will soon receive funds to begin hiring teachers. It is now time for Congress to finish the job by making a long-term commitment to class size reduction. I call on every Senator to vote for the Murray-Kennedy amendment to bring every class in the early grades down to a national average of 18.

I will vigorously oppose any Republican amendments to undermine the bipartisan agreement we reached last year on class size by diverting those funds to other uses, including special education. While we should increase funding for special education -- as we have done in past years and as my budget recommends continuing to do in the future -- we should not take this money from the recently enacted class size initiative. We should not pit our children against one another or change the rules now on our critical efforts to reduce class size. Smaller classes will help all students do better, and will reduce the need for special education services by helping teachers identify and assist as early as possible children who have learning problems. I call on every member of Congress to reject these efforts to tear down what we accomplished last year, and call on them instead to build on that significant bipartisan achievement.