Good morning. For millions of American children, this is the last glorious weekend of summer vacation. Ready or not, they're picking out new clothes and packing their school supplies for a promising new school year.
When that first bell rings on Monday, it signals not just the start of a new semester but also the highest enrollment in our Nation's history. This fall a record 53 million students will fill our classrooms. Unfortunately, thousands of school districts are struggling to find enough teachers to fill them.
Today I want to talk about this critical teacher shortage and the steps we're taking to address it. For nearly 8 years now, Vice President Gore and I have pushed to invest more in our schools and demand more from them. We've dramatically increased Federal investment in afterschool and summer school. We've raised standards, strengthened accountability, and worked to turn around failing schools. Today, math, reading, and SAT scores all are up, and more students than ever are going on to college.
Because America needs good new teachers more than ever before, we've set out to hire 100,000 of the highest quality, and we're pushing hard toward that goal. Since 1998, we've helped local schools hire a third of that total, and this year we've asked Congress for funding to reach 50,000.
We've also provided housing discounts for teachers moving to distressed communities and the forgiveness of student loans for those who commit to stay. All across our Nation, school districts are looking for a new generation of dedicated teachers. In Cleveland, for example, administrators hired more than 200 teachers over the summer, but they're still looking for another 400. And Cleveland is not alone.
With a strong economy and such a tight labor market, it's hard to find so many qualified professionals, and the challenge is growing. Over the next decade, America will need to hire 2.2 million new teachers both to handle rising enrollment and to replace those teachers set to retire.
By working together as communities and a nation, we can meet the growing need for more teachers in our classrooms. Today I'm announcing the first-ever national online teacher recruitment clearinghouse. By logging on to www.recruitingteachers.org, school districts can find qualified teachers, and teachers can find out where the jobs are.
I'm also directing Secretary Riley to notify every school district about this new tool and to provide them with information about how to make the most of it. This will transform what has been a hit-or-miss process into a more efficient, effective exchange of information. And over time, this site will help us to alleviate the national teacher shortage and to bring down class size.
Studies show what parents already know: Students perform better in smaller classes with more individual attention and greater discipline. In a few short weeks, Congress will return to Washington hot from the campaign trail, but America's families know this isn't just an election year; it's also a school year.
They want Congress to put progress before partisanship and to pass an education budget that reflects our national priorities. I urge Congress to pass my package of proposals to continue cutting class size and boosting teacher quality. These initiatives would provide $2.75 billion to recruit, train, and hire teachers, to reduce the class size and to invest in teacher quality so we can make real progress toward our goal of having a qualified teacher in every classroom.
I also urge Congress to take prompt action on our proposal to help local school districts tackle the enormous challenge of modernizing old schools and building new ones. The average American public school was built 42 years ago, and decades of use have taken their toll. It is high time we get our children out of trailers and into 21st century classrooms.
At the start of this new school year, parents and teachers everywhere are telling students to do their best. In turn, their families have a right to expect that we, here, will do ours. So let's not make them wait another year for the resources they need.
With more teachers, smaller classes, modern schools, and faith in their future, our children will do more than reach for their dreams; they'll achieve them.
Thanks for listening.