THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON TAKES NEW STEPS TO IMPROVE TEACHER QUALITY AND
CALLS ON CONGRESS TO REDUCE CLASS SIZE
July 20, 1999
In a White House speech today to the legal community, President Clinton will announce $43 million in grants to be awarded this week to help states and communities recruit talented people into teaching and improve the quality of teaching nationwide. These grants will help support comprehensive efforts in 24 states to improve teacher quality and will help 28 local partnerships attract new students to the teaching profession and reduce shortages and teacher turnover in high-need areas. The President is challenging Congress to finish the job of hiring 100,000 well-prepared teachers to reduce class size in the early grades and enact his proposals to build and modernize 6000 public schools and improve the quality of teaching across the nation. The President has pledged to veto legislation being debated in the House this week that would undermine last year's commitment to reduce class size to a nationwide average of 18 in the early grades.
Awarding New Grants To Recruit New Teachers and Improve Teacher Quality. Today, the Administration will announce a total of $43 million in grants from two initiatives to recruit new teachers and improve teacher quality. First, the Administration will award $9.6 million to 28 partnerships between school districts and universities to attract a new generation of teachers for America's schools. This funding will help provide college scholarships and other support to talented young people who agree to teach in high-poverty schools for at least one year for each year of financial support they receive. The President proposed these scholarships in July 1997 as part of his race initiative and is awarding them for the first time. The President's budget for FY 2000 provides a fivefold increase for the scholarships he proposed and won last year.
Second, the Administration will award $33.4 million to 24 states to support comprehensive statewide reforms to improve teacher quality, including steps to strengthen teacher certification and licensing standards in order to ensure that new teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge and to hold institutions of higher education accountable for preparing high-quality teachers.
Challenging Congress to Keep its Commitment on Class Size. Last fall, Congress reached across party lines to make a down payment on the President's initiative to hire an additional 100,000 well-prepared teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. Earlier this month, the Administration awarded $1.2 billion - enough to hire 30,000 teachers - and communities in all 50 states will start hiring these new teachers before school starts this fall.
Unfortunately, the House is now considering a bill that backs away from last year's bipartisan commitment and fails to guarantee the continuation of this nationwide effort to reduce class size. The bill, H.R. 1995, would abolish a separate funding stream for class size reduction and replace it with a block grant that fails to guarantee that any funding will be used for hiring new teachers to reduce class size. The bill also would eliminate any focus on the early grades, deny adequate funding to the communities that need it most, and allow federal resources to replace local or state funding already being spent on class size reductions, instead of increasing the overall level of investment in public schools. The President has said he would veto this bill if it comes to his desk in its current form in order to protect the nation's commitment to smaller classes and better schools. Instead, the President is calling on the House to approve a substitute measure sponsored by Representative Martinez to improve teacher quality and maintain a national commitment to the class size reduction effort begun last year.
Building on Research Showing that Students Benefit from Small Classes with Qualified Teachers. Research has shown what parents and teachers have long known: smaller classes can boost children's academic achievement and improve discipline. 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. Recent follow-up studies of these students 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.
Modernizing School Buildings and Improving Teacher Quality. The President is also calling on Congress to pass his School Modernization Bond proposal, which provides $24.8 billion in tax credit bonds over two years to help state and local governments pay for school construction and renovation of up to 6,000 schools. The President's proposal has an estimated cost of $3.7 billion over five years, and is fully paid for in his budget. The Republican alternative, which is part of the House Republican tax cut proposal, would address the needs of only one-tenth as many schools, and could cause delays in construction and encourage risky investment of taxpayer funds.
The President is also challenging Congress to pass his plan to improve the quality of teaching nationwide by such steps as investing in high-quality professional development for teachers, continuing and expanding the successful Troops to Teachers program to help retiring military personnel and other mid-career professionals become teachers, and supporting the work of the bipartisan National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to define what highly accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.