THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Two weeks ago, the fiscal 2000 budget year ended. Since then, I have had to sign two short-term continuing resolutions to keep the government open. Yet Congress has yet to complete and send me 8 of 13 spending bills. Last night, I signed another one-week extension. Let me serve notice now: if Congress fails to meet this deadline, any further extensions must be at most for a very few days. Congress needs to finish its work and send me a budget. It should be a budget that is fiscally responsible, that reflects the values of the American people, and that invests in the future, especially in the education of our children.
I sent such a budget to Congress in February. Among other things, my budget calls for tax credits to help communities build or modernize 6,000 schools, and grants and loans for emergency repairs in 5,000 schools a year for five years. The need is undeniable. The average American school building is now more than 40 years old. At least 60 percent of the schools in every state are in need of repair. And some schools actually pose health risks to students. I received a letter yesterday from some of the nation's top health organizations, including the American Lung Association and the National Association of school nurses. They point out that in many of our older school buildings, the air is polluted with lead, radon gas, and other substances harmful to our children's health.
These groups endorse my proposal to rebuild and repair our schools. A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives is ready right now to pass school construction tax credits. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership continues to stand in the way and refuses to bring it to a vote. It's time for Congress to act. It's unfair to ask America's children to lift themselves up in school buildings that are falling down.
The majority party's education budget also fails to make other vital investments in education. It does not ensure the hiring of another 20,000 teachers to reduce class sizes. It denies afterschool to over 1.6 million children who would get it under my balanced budget proposal. It shortchanges efforts to improve teacher quality. And it invests nothing to help states turn around failing schools or shut them down and reopen them under new management.
The continuing resolution I signed last night gives Congress seven more days to act. That is enough time to pass a responsible budget that modernizes our schools, strengthens accountability, lowers class sizes, expands afterschool, mentoring, and college opportunities for young people, and helps put a qualified teacher in every classroom. It should also be a budget that puts more police on the street, that enforces civil rights, ensures equal pay, expands health care, and creates opportunities for all Americans to share in our strong economy through our New Markets Initiative.
At this time of unprecedented prosperity, there is no reason we can't put partisanship aside and make the investments we know will move our nation forward, especially in the education of our children. By building stronger schools, we'll build a stronger America in the future.