Republican Response Emphasizes Local Control

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Following are excerpts from the Republican response to President Clinton's address, delivered by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi:

Tonight I'd like to share with you our plans, here in the Congress, for a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America.

Those plans are shaped by our commitment to family, to faith, and to freedom. And they highlight some real differences, between the Republican Party and the president, concerning what government should do--and how much of your money government should take.

Big Government or families? More taxes or more freedom?

We believe the choice is clear: The first priority of your representatives in Washington must be to fight for the interests of the American family. ...

Parents--and good teachers, as well--are dissatisfied with schools where kids don't learn, and in many cases, where they aren't even safe. When one-quarter--one out of four--of our high school students can barely read, isn't it obvious the current system isn't working? ...

We think the best things for safe, healthy children are healthy, stable families--not more government programs that require parents to work longer, take home less, and spend less time with the kids. That's why we fought for a $500-per-child tax credit last year. ...

Washington today has more than 750 education programs, in 39 different bureaucracies.

That just doesn't make sense.

And it doesn't make sense for Washington to tax the people in your community and, then, give the money back with strings attached. We want to cut those strings and to remove the out-of-date rules and restrictions that hold back our schools from the future.

For example, if your community needs to build new schools or rehabilitate old ones, you should be able to do that.

If you want to offer merit pay for great teachers, you should be able to do that too.

We've heard a lot from the president about testing.

But he thinks Washington should administer the tests. Wrong again.

We think that you--the parents, the teachers and local officials-- should do the job.

Republicans in Congress strongly support that kind of state testing, just as we support an even more important kind: periodic testing for teachers. You won't hear much about that from the president. On this subject, the president disagrees with us. And, we disagree with him. ...

We hope the president, this year, will finally see the wisdom in our proposal to give freedom of choice to low-income families whose children are stuck in dead-end, drug-ridden schools.

Because we care so deeply about those families, we want them to have the same option exercised by both President Clinton and Vice President Gore, who chose the schools their children attended.

Parental choice and involvement are absolutely essential, but choice in education does not mean abandoning our public schools.

It simply means moving decisionmaking away from Washington, and back to you at your family's kitchen table.

That's the first and most important step to launching an era of education renewal that will equip our schools and our students to lead America and the world into the new century.

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