School Reform, Training Key To Economic Renewal, Clinton Says
Although he proposed no new education initiatives in his State of the Union Message last week, President Clinton referred repeatedly to children's well-being in a speech that focused on health care, welfare, and crime.
In the 63-minute address to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Clinton pressed for passage of his Administration's education-reform centerpiece, the "goals 2000: educate America act,'' as well as his school-to-work proposals.
The Administration's efforts to reinvigorate the economy and provide equal opportunity "cannot work unless we also give our people the education, training, and skills they need to seize the opportunities of tomorrow,'' Mr. Clinton said.
The day after the address, the President was scheduled to deliver a similar message--tailored to young people--to students at a junior high school in one of this city's poorer neighborhoods.
The event was called off, however, because Mr. Clinton was suffering from laryngitis. The White House said it probably will reschedule the event at some point.
In his speech to Congress, Mr. Clinton voiced concern over the disintegration of traditional values and called for increased personal responsibility, urging parents to take charge of their children's future.
"We can't renew our country until we realize that governments don't raise children: parents do,'' he said.
Recipe for Renewal
Mr. Clinton clearly defined education reform as part of his recipe for renewal.
"We must set tough, world-class academic and occupational standards for all our children and give our teachers and students the tools they need to meet them,'' he said.
As part of the Administration's Goals 2000 education-reform strategy, states and school districts would establish voluntary curricular-content, student-performance, and opportunity-to-learn standards in exchange for federal reform grants.
In the current fiscal year, Congress appropriated $105 million for such grants, much less than the $420 million the President had sought. Mr. Clinton is expected to request substantially more for the program when he releases his budget next week.
Goals 2000, the President said, will "empower individual school districts to experiment with ideas like chartering their schools to be run by private corporations or having more public school choice, to do whatever they wish to do as long as we measure every school by one high standard: Are our children learning what they need to know to compete and win in the global economy?''
He added that Goals 2000 "links world-class standards to grassroots reforms'' and called on Congress to pass it "without delay.''
The Senate could take up the bill as early as this week. The House has already passed the measure.
'Stop Ignoring Them'
Mr. Clinton emphasized that non-college-bound students who have been neglected in past programs will be served by his Administration's school-to-work-transition plan.
"After all, most of the people we're counting on to build our economic future won't graduate from college,'' he said. "It's time to stop ignoring them and start empowering them.''
The House has passed the school-to-work bill, and the Senate is expected to take it up early this year.
The President cited efforts by both chambers to pass a "tough, but smart'' crime bill. The Senate version's safe-schools provision "will give our young people the chance to walk to school in safety and to be in school in safety instead of dodging bullets,'' he said.
Mr. Clinton made clear that reforms in health care and welfare are linked, and that he expects Congress to tackle both this year. He threatened to veto any health-care legislation that did not provide universal coverage.
"Let's give our children a future,'' he said. "Let us take away
their guns and give them books. Let us overcome their despair and
replace it with hope.''