Federal File

April 16, 1997 2 min read

Spotlight on D.C. schools

Public schools in the nation’s capital have a long-standing reputation for low test scores and crumbling facilities. (See “School-Closing Plan Poses Test for D.C. Leaders,” in This Week’s News.)

But they have one advantage: They’re in the backyard of the nation’s lawmakers, many of whom have recently taken an interest in the plight of the 79,000-student school system.

With education at the top of President Clinton’s agenda, the administration is using Washington’s public schools as a backdrop to push their initiatives and keep the spotlight on education.

Last week, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and other Cabinet officials kick off the schools’ annual Math, Science and Technology Initiative.

On the same day, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Aline Chretien, the first lady of Canada, visited Burrville Elementary School to witness a two-way video and computer link between students there and a classroom in Ottawa.

And a few days earlier, Vice President Al Gore visited Turner Elementary School to announce that businesses will supply wiring kits to link local schools to the Internet on national NetDay, April 19. He said federal officials aim to donate more than 1,000 surplus computers with Internet capability to Washington schools.

A Fitting Tribute

President Clinton has named an existing international teacher-exchange program after Albert Shanker, the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, who died in February.

The designation of U.S. Information Agency “Shanker Fellows” is fitting because the long-time AFT president worked “to bring people all over the world together around democracy and freedom and dignity,” Mr. Clinton said at a memorial service for Mr. Shanker in Washington last week.

The president acknowledged that his call for new national tests to gauge students against international standards is a kind of tribute to Mr. Shanker.

Mr. Clinton noted that in his State of the Union Address in February, “we [said we] would develop national standards and that we would begin to make sure they counted.”

Mr. Clinton added that he later told the ailing AFT president: “I hope you feel good now, because you’ve been telling us to do this for years and years and years, and finally your crusade will be America’s crusade.”

Mr. Shanker died 18 days after the State of the Union Address.