For The Record

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The following is the education plank of the Democratic Party's 1984 platform.

America's greatest resource is our people. As Democrats, we affirm the need for both public and private investment--in our children; in our educational institutions and our students; in jobs, training, and transitional assistance for our workers--to build America's future. If we choose wisely, these investments will be returned to our country many times over. They are essential if we are to create an America with high-quality jobs and rising opportunities for all. And they are vital if we are to safeguard our competitive position in the world economy.

Simple decency demands that we make children one of our highest national priorities. But the argument for so acting goes well beyond that. Programs for children represent the most critical investment we can make in our ability to compete in future world markets and maintain a strong national defense in the decades ahead.

Above all else, the Democratic Party stands for making the proper investment in coming generations of Americans.

Preventive efforts must be at the heart of the broad range of health, child-care, and support programs for children. Helping these children makes good moral sense--and sound economic sense. Measles vaccine alone has saved $1.3 billion in medical costs in just 10 years. Supplemental food programs for low-income pregnant women and infants save $3 for every dollar spent.

By improving access to medical care before and after birth, we can promote a generation of healthy mothers and healthy babies. Seeing that supplemental food programs for low-income pregnant women and infants reach all those eligible will do more than save the $40,000 now spent to treat one low-birth-weight infant in a neo-natal ward. It will also reduce the risk of birth defects for such infants.

We recognize that a hungry child is a child who cannot learn. Restoring school breakfasts and school lunches for millions of children will improve their alertness and concentration in school.

Child care must also be a top priority. Helping communities establish after-school care programs will remove millions of American children from the serious risks they now face of injury, abuse, and alienation by staying at home alone. Encouraging employers, churches, public centers, and private groups to provide quality, affordable child care will give millions of children whose parents must work the kind of adult supervision necessary to thrive. And setting up centers for child care information and referral will assist parents wherever they reside to locate quality care for their children.

Preventing child abuse must be at the forefront of Democratic Party concern. Local, community-based child-abuse prevention programs must be strengthened and expanded. A child who learns first about the risks of sexual abuse in school will be less likely to become the target of repeated victimization. Federal challenge grants could encourage states to make local prevention efforts a real priority.

Prompt intervention efforts must also be provided for children in crisis. If we are to make any headway in breaking the cycle of child abuse, both victims and offenders must have access to treatment programs.

Juvenile offenders must not be left in adult jails where the only skills they acquire are those of the career criminal. Safe shelter and assistance must be available for the hundreds of thousands of runaway children at risk of exploitation in our cities. Local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies must refine ways to locate children who have been abducted. And children in foster care must not be allowed to graduate to the streets at age 18 without ever having known a permanent home.

We must ensure that essential surveys on children's health and welfare status are reinstated. We know more about the number of matches sold than about the number of children across the country who die in fires while alone at home. Likewise, we know less about hunger and malnutrition among children than we do about the health of the nation's poultry stock.

The Democratic Party affirms its commitment to protecting the health and safety of children in the United States. Existing laws mandating the use of automobile child restraints must be enforced, and child safety seat loaner or rental programs and public-education programs must be encouraged, in order to reduce significantly the leading cause of death and serious injury among children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years--motor-vehicle crashes.

The crisis devastating many of our nation's youth is nowhere more dramatically evidenced than in the alarming rate of increase in teen-age suicide. About 6,000 young people took their lives in 1983, and for each actual suicide 50 to 100 other youths attempted suicide. The underlying causes of teen-age suicide, as well as its full scope, are not adequately researched or understood. We must commit ourselves to seek out the causes, formulate a national policy of prevention, and provide guidance to our state and local governments in developing means to stem this devastating tide of self-destruction. We support the creation of a national panel on teen-age suicide to respond to this challenge.

A Democratic Administration which establishes these priorities can reduce the risks for our young people and improve the odds. By so doing, it will serve their future ... and ours.

No public investment is more important than the one we make in the minds, skill, and discipline of our people. Whether we are talking about a strong economy, a strong defense, or a strong system of justice, we cannot achieve it without a strong educational system. Our very future in international economic competition depends on skilled workers and on first-rate scientists, engineers, and managers.

We Democrats are committed to equity in education. We will insist on excellence, discipline, and high standards. Quality education deparents performing at the highest level of achievement.

Today, education in America needs help. But, the Reagan Administration offers misleading homilies about the importance of education while agressively slashing education programs.

This is intolerable. We know that every dollar we invest in education is ultimately returned to us six-fold. We know that the education of our citizens is critical to our democracy.

There are four key goals that a Democratic program for educational excellence must address: strengthening local capacity to innovate and progress in public education and encourage parental involvement; renewing our efforts to ensure that all children, whatever their race, income, or sex have a fair and equal chance to learn; attracting the most talented young people into teaching and enabling them to remain and develop in their profession; and ensuring that all American families can send their children on to college or advanced training.

While education is the responsibility of local government, local governments already strapped for funds by this Administration cannot be expected to bear alone the burden of undertaking the efforts we need for quality education--from teacher training, to the salaries needed to attract and retain able teachers, to new labs, to new programs to motivate talented and gifted students, to new ties between businesses and schools--without leadership at the federal level.

Democrats will provide that leadership. We call for the immediate restoration of the cuts in funding of education programs by the Reagan Administration, and for a major new commitment to education. We will create a partnership for excellence among federal, state, and local governments. We will provide incentives to local school districts to concentrate on science, math, communications, and computer literacy; to provide access to advanced technology. In all of these fields, but particularly in computers, there is a growing danger of a two-tier education system. The more affluent districts have adequate hardware and teachers prepared to use it. Many districts are left completely behind or saddled with a modern machine but no provision for faculty training.

Every American child should have the basic education that makes computer literacy possible and useful. Major attention must be given to recruiting the finest young people into teaching careers, and to providing adequate staff-development programs that enable educators to increase their effectiveness in meeting the needs of all students.

Vocational education should be overhauled to bring instructional materials, equipment, and staff up to date with technology and practices of the workplace and target assistance to areas with large numbers of disadvantaged youth. We will insist that every child be afforded an equal opportunity to fulfill his or her potential. We will pay special attention to the needs of the handicapped.

Education is an important key to the upward mobility of all citizens and especially the disadvantaged, despite the fact that racial discrimination and other prejudices have set limits to such achievement.

The Reagan Administration has singled out for extinction the proven most successsful education program--compensatory education for disadvantaged children. The Democratic Party will reverse this malicious onslaught and dramatically strengthen support in order to provide educational equity for all children.

Bilingual education enables children to achieve full competence in the English language and the academic success necessary to their full participation in the life of our nation. We reject the Reagan double-talk on bilingual education and commit ourselves to expanding and increasing its effectiveness.

We will emphasize the importance of preventing one-third of our student body nationwide from dropping out of school in the first place. And, we will supplement community-based programs encouraging students who have left school due to teen-age parenthood, alcohol and drug abuse, or economic difficulties at home to complete their educations.

Recognizing that young people who are never given an opportunity for a job will be less likely to hold one in adulthood, we will also emphasize training and employment opportunities for youth. In so doing, we need to establish a genuine working partnership with the private sector.

Private schools, particularly parochial schools, are also an important part of our diverse educational system. Consistent with our tradition, the Democratic Party accepts its commitment to constitutionally acceptable methods of supporting the education of all pupils in schools which do not racially discriminate, and excluding so-called segregation academies. The party will continue to support federal education legislation which provides for the equitable participation in federal programs of all low- and moderate-income pupils.

For its part, when added to the traditional educational institutions of family, school, and church, television has enormous promise as a teacher. When children spend more time in front of the television set than they do in the classroom, we must ask how television can help children, and why commercial broadcasters do so little programming for children today despite their legal responsibility as "public trustees" of the airwaves granted to them. The National Science Board, for instance, has recommended that commercial television stations be required to air a certain amount of information/educational programming for children each week. Properly developed, television can be an enormously efficient and effective supplemental teaching tool.

We will make certain that higher education does not become a luxury affordable only by the children of the rich. That is Ronald Reagan's America. In our America, no qualified student should be deprived of the abili-ty to go on to college because of financial circumstance.

The Democratic Party reaffirms the importance of historically black colleges. Today the survival of many of these colleges is threatened. The programs that assist them, which have been severely weakened in recent years, must be greatly strengthened with funding targeted toward black and Hispanic institutions.

An explosion in demand for certain types of engineers, scientists, and other technical specialists is creating a shortage of faculty and Ph.D. candidates. We must encourage colleges and universities to train more scientists and engineers. More than one hundred years ago the Morrill Land Grant Act provided for agricultural colleges and programs that today still help keep American agriculture the world leader. We need a similar program today to encourage the training of scientists and engineers. At the same time, we must not neglect the arts and humanities, which enrich our spirit. The private sector must also recognize its responsibility to join partnerships which strengthen our diverse public and private higher-education system.

Finally, all our educational institutions must adapt to growing numbers of adults returning to school to upgrade their skills, acquire new skills, prepare themselves for entirely new occupations, and enrich their lives.

America is truly growing and prosperous when its spirit flourishes. The arts and humanities are at the core of our national experience. Creativity and the life of the mind have defined us at our best throughout our history. As scholars or artists, the museum-goers or students, craftsmen and craftswomen, or the millions who use our libraries, countless Americans have a stake in a nation that honors and rejoices in intelligence and imagination.

The Democratic Party will set a new national tone of respect for learning and artistic achievement. Not only will the federal agencies that support them be strengthened and freed from political intimidation, but the White House itself will once again be a place where American cultural and intellectual life--in all its rich diversity--is honored. Excellence must start at the top.

Finally, the Democratic Party is also committed to the survival of public television and radio stations, which allow all Americans, regardless of ability to pay, to appreciate high-quality, alternative programming. We oppose the efforts of the Reagan Administration to enact draconian cuts which would totally undermine the viability of this nation's excellent public-broadcasting system, a broadcasting system which has given the country "Sesame Street," "3-2-1 Contact," and other superb children's as well as cultural and public-affairs programming.

We must have a growing economy if we are to have jobs for all Americans who seek work. But even in a growing economy, the pressures of competition and the pace of change ensure that while jobs are being created, others are being destroyed. Prosperity will not be evenly distrib-uted among regions and communities. We must make special efforts to help families in economic transition who are faced with loss of homes, health benefits, and pensions. And far too many of our young people, especially minorities, do not have the training and skills they need to get their first job. Democrats believe that it is a national responsibility to ensure that the burdens of change are fairly shared and that every young American can take the first step up the ladder of economic opportunity.

Of the 8.5 million Americans still out of work, 40 percent are under 25. Unemployment among teen-agers stands at almost 20 percent. Less than three percent of the jobs created in the last three-and-a-half years have gone to young people. Black and Hispanic youth have a double burden. Unemployment for black teen-agers stands at 44 percent--a 20-percent increase in the last three years. Hispanic teens face a 26-percent unemployment rate.

As disturbing as these figures are, they do not tell the whole story. The unemployment rate measures only those teen-agers who were actively looking for work, not those who have given up, completely discouraged by the lack of opportunity. Again the burden falls disproportionally on minority youth.

The Reagan Administration has dismantled virtually all of the successful programs to train and employ young people. Today, we are spending less to put young people to work than we were even under the last Republican Administration--70 percent less, when inflation is taken into account. Youth unemployment has skyrocketed, while government efforts to combat it have dwindled to a trickle.

Unless we address this problem now, half of an entire generation may never know what it means to work. America cannot successfully compete in the world economy if a significant portion of our future work force is illiterate, unskilled, and unemployable.

The Democratic Party must give our young people new skills and new hope; we must work hand in hand with the private sector if job training is to lead to jobs. Specifically, targeted efforts are needed to address the urgent problem of unemployment among minority teen-agers. We must provide job training for those who have dropped out of school, and take every step to expand educational opportunity for those still in school. We must recognize the special needs of the over-age-50 worker and the displaced homemaker. Through education, training, and retraining we must reduce these dangerously high levels of unemployment.

Vol. 04, Issue 40 & 41

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