President Urges the Nation To Return To ‘Traditional Values’ of Education

By Tom Mirga — February 01, 1984 3 min read

Washington--President Reagan last week urged the nation to return to “traditional values” in education in his annual State of the Union Address to the Congress.

Repeating positions that he has advanced throughout his first three years in office, the President asserted that “excellence [in education] does not begin in Washington.”

“Excellence must begin in our homes and neighborhood schools, where it’s the responsibility of every parent and teacher and the right of every child,” he told the assembly of Congressmen, Senators, Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, and diplomats.

"[We] must do more to restore discipline to schools; and we must encourage the teaching of new basics, reward teachers of merit, enforce tougher standards, and put our parents back in charge,” he said.

In addition to urging state and local officials to adopt the findings of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, Mr. Reagan also urged the Congress to enact tuition-tax-credit legislation and to pass a constitutional amendment allowing organized prayer in public schools.

“Just as more incentives are needed within our schools, greater competition is needed among our schools,” he said in defense of his proposal to “soften the double payment for those paying public-school taxes and private-school tuition.”

He also chided the Congress for beginning its sessions with prayer while denying that privilege to “children in every schoolroom across this land.”

Asks For Line Item Veto

Mr. Reagan also asked the Congress to pass a constitutional amendment allowing him to veto “wasteful or extravagant” line items in appropriations bills for the Edu-cation Department and other federal agencies. Currently, if the President is not satisfied with an item in such a bill, his only recourse is to veto the entire measure.

The President also called on the Congress to work with him to reduce the federal defict by $100 billion over the next three years. Those savings would be achieved through a combination of spending cuts, by the closing of tax loopholes, and by adopting the recommendations of the recently released report of his Private Sector Survey on Cost Control.

A senior Administration official conceded that Mr. Reagan’s message concerning education “is not very new.”

“But these are policies that the President is commited to,” he said. “They bear repeating to Congress.”

The official also noted that the President’s decision to “elevate” traditional values such as education to the same level as world peace and economic prosperity in his message to the Congress was of “great symbolic importance.”

Several education leaders interviewed after the speech were generally negative in their reactions to the President’s education message.

“He is diverting public attention from the real issues in the field,” said Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

When asked how Mr. Reagan’s proposals would fare in the Congress, Representative Perkins said, “Proposals? I didn’t hear any proposals tonight. All I heard was a diversionary tactic.”

“The President’s taking credit for the education-reform movement is a little bit like a California surfer who takes credit for the wave that he’s riding to the shore,” said Stanley Salett, a senior associate with the National Committee for Citizens in Education, which promotes parental involvement in education.

“They’re both getting a free ride,” Mr. Salett added.

Greater Federal Support

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association both used the media to express their views on the President’s message.

Last week, the aft bought radio time on the Mutual Radio Network to ''focus attention on the uncompleted federal commitment to education” and to encourage greater federal support for schools and colleges.

The nea invited a panel of officials from Washington-based education associations to discuss the President’s address in its regular television broadcast to state affiliates.

This week, the Administration officially releases its fiscal 1985 budget for education and all other areas of the government. Mr. Reagan is asking the Congress to increase education spending in the current fiscal year from $15.37 billion to $15.43 billion and to further increase the budget to $15.48 billion in the coming fiscal year. (See related story on page 1.)

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1984 edition of Education Week as President Urges the Nation To Return To ‘Traditional Values’ of Education