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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 18, 1999
                           November 18, 1999

"States and school districts must turn around their worst-performing schools -- or shut them down."

                       President Clinton
                       State of the Union Address -- January 19, 1999

In an important step forward for educational accountability, the President's plan to help turn around low-performing schools has been included in the final budget agreement. Along with the many other strides to improve public education in this budget -- such as $1.3 billion to keep on track to hiring 100,000 quality teachers to reduce class size; $450 million to more than double federal support to expand after-school programs; $200 million to help disadvantaged students prepare for college; and increased funding for Title I, Hispanic education, educational technology, charter schools, and other important efforts, such as helping families pay for college -- this accountability initiative will help strengthen the schools that need it most. It will set aside $134 million to ensure that failing schools are held accountable for results.

TURNING AROUND LOW-PERFORMING SCHOOLS. In January, President Clinton called on states and districts to identify and turn around their worst-performing schools -- or shut them down. The final budget agreement provides communities the resources to help do so. It targets $134 million in new funds to districts with schools identified as low-performing under Title I. These are schools with the lowest achievement levels that have consistently failed to show improvement. Districts must use these resources for corrective strategies to improve the performance of these schools. The budget also includes a $75 million increase in Title I base funding, for a total Title I increase of $209 million over the Labor/HHS bill the President vetoed.

A STRATEGY THAT WORKS. The President's plan builds on the experience of local communities nationwide that have carried out these reforms to turn around their schools:

North Carolina sent assistance teams into its 15 worst-performing elementary and middle schools in 1997. Within a year, 14 of these schools met state standards in reading and math. Students in North Carolina have made dramatic gains in educational achievement in recent years.

The Miami-Dade School District identified 45 low-performing schools in 1995, and implemented an intensive three-year corrective action plan, including school-wide reading programs and improved technology. Last year, the district determined that all the schools had made progress and removed all 45 schools from the state's list of low-performing schools.

EXPANDING PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE. The final budget also includes a provision to give students in low-performing schools in districts that receive accountability funds, the option to transfer to another public school not identified for improvement, unless the school district can show the state that it does not have the capacity to provide all students that option.