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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 26, 1999
                      A NATIONAL EFFORT TO ENSURE

                             June 26, 1999

In his weekly radio address, President Clinton announced that the U.S. Department of Education will distribute $1.2 billion next week to help local school districts move immediately to begin hiring 30,000 teachers -- the first down payment on the President's seven-year plan to help reduce class size in the early grades to a national average of 18. By the time children go back to school this fall, communities in all 50 states will have new qualified teachers and smaller classes in the early grades. The President also called on Congress to enact the remainder of his plan and finish the job over the next six years of helping to hire 100,000 well-prepared teachers. This initiative will 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.

$1.2 Billion to Ensure Smaller Classes with Well-Prepared Teachers in the Early Grades. President Clinton announced that the U.S. Department of Education will distribute $1.2 billion next week to help schools take the first step in reducing class size in grades 1-3 to a national average of 18. These funds will be immediately available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico help schools throughout the country hire approximately 30,000 teachers, the first down payment on the President's seven-year plan to reduce class size by hiring 100,000 well-prepared teachers. The funding will ensure that communities across the nation have additional well-prepared teachers ready to teach in smaller classes this fall.

Building on a National Commitment to Reduce Class Size. Last year, Congress came together across party lines to make a bipartisan commitment to reduce class size in the early grades, providing a $1.2 billion down payment on the President's $12 billion, seven-year plan to ensure smaller classes with well-prepared teachers all across America. Today, the President called on Congress to keep its commitment and approve his plan to finish the job of helping to hire 100,000 teachers over the next six years. Class size is not a partisan issue - it is good education policy, backed by research, and championed by elected officials in both parties.

The President's initiative will help ensure that children across America get personal attention, acquire a solid foundation for further learning, and learn to read well and independently by the end of the third grade. But legislation and funding plans currently being considered by the Congress would back away from this bipartisan commitment by failing to provide sufficient or dedicated funding to reduce class size in the early grades, seriously undermining our national commitment to make smaller classes in the early grades a reality for all of America's children. This legislation follows a failed attempt earlier this year in Congress to undercut last year's bipartisan commitment to smaller classes.

Small Classes Make A Difference. Research has shown that class size reduction in the early grades is one of the most direct and effective ways to boost children's academic achievement. A landmark study of class size reduction in kindergarten through third grade in Tennessee found that students in smaller classes earned significantly higher scores on basic skills tests in all four years and in all types of schools. Smaller classes were found to make the greatest difference for minority and disadvantaged students. Students participating in Wisconsin's class-size reduction effort also outperformed their counterparts in larger classrooms on standardized tests, and demonstrated an increased ability to close the "achievement gap" between black and white students. Recent follow-up studies of the Tennessee class-size effort show that students who start out in smaller classes are less likely to drop out of high school, more likely to get good grades in high school, and more likely to take steps needed to go to college. These benefits remained especially noteworthy for disadvantaged and minority students. Smaller classes also improve discipline and make it easier for teachers to spend more time on instruction. In Burke County, North Carolina, the percentage of classroom time devoted to instruction increased from 80 percent to 86 percent, while the time diverted to non-instructional activities such as discipline decreased from 20 percent to 14 percent when class size was reduced. Students from Tennessee's STAR program worked harder and caused fewer discipline problems than students from larger classes, even after the STAR students returned to large classrooms.

Hiring and Training High-Quality Teachers. In order to ensure that smaller classes are taught by high-quality teachers, the class-size initiative proposed and signed into law by the President helps local districts recruit high-quality teachers, requires them to hire certified teachers, and makes 15% of the funds available to help teachers improve their skills. The initiative will be phased in over the next six years to give schools and districts time to hire, recruit, and train high-quality teachers. Moreover, the class size initiative will provide the most help to high-poverty communities, which have the hardest time recruiting new teachers and can use these funds to hire and retain more high-quality teachers.