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Fact Sheet: New Education Initiatives for Stronger Workforce

April 06, 2004

Today's Presidential Action

President Bush visited El Dorado, Arkansas today to meet with students, workers, business leaders, and educators. He announced a new plan to strengthen math and science education to ensure that young Americans are graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and to compete for the high-demand jobs of the 21st Century.

The President's plan strengthens and modernizes vocational and technical education, expands math and science education for all students, enables more low-income students to pursue degrees in math and science, and enables educators to determine whether high schools are graduating students with the skills they need to succeed.

Background: Helping Young Americans to Get the Skills They Need to Succeed

America's growing economy is a changing economy, and we must respond to these changes by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our 21st Century economy.

Many of the fastest-growing occupations require strong math and science preparation, and training beyond the high school level. Unfortunately, not enough high school students are receiving the skills they need to compete in these fields and in higher education.

  • Only 24 states require at least three years of math, and only 21 states require at least three years of science.
  • Because their math and science education is lacking, young Americans stand to miss out on job opportunities, will lack the necessary skills for post-secondary study, or will not complete post-secondary study in a timely manner.
  • Students who fall behind in reading have a greater chance of dropping out of high school altogether. Nationally, of one-hundred ninth-graders, only 67 will graduate from high school on time, only 38 will directly enter college, only 26 are still enrolled their sophomore year, and only 18 will end up graduating from college.
  • U.S. 12th graders performed among the lowest of the 21 countries assessed in both math and science on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

The President's Solution:

Elementary students: To help the youngest Americans receive a quality education and learn the basic skills they will need to succeed in the future, President Bush proposed and signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which should be learned in the early grades in our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered. With the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, we are making progress toward educational excellence for every child.

  • Requiring states to set clear standards for what every child should learn -- and taking steps to help each child learn.
  • Holding schools accountable for student progress by regularly testing in the fundamental subjects of reading and math.
  • Reporting results to parents and ensuring they have better options when schools are not performing.
  • Providing more funding -- a 49% increase in Federal support for elementary and secondary education since 2001.

High school students: President Bush also wants to help students in high school who had already completed their elementary education before the No Child Left Behind Act became law. The President's Jobs for the 21st Century initiative includes:

  • Creation of a Striving Readers Initiative to provide extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in reading. The President's FY 2005 budget provides $100 million for the Striving Readers Initiative.
  • Increased funding for the Mathematics and Science Partnership Program to provide extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in math. The President's FY 2005 budget provides an additional $120 million for the Program.
  • Expansion of Advanced Placement (AP) programs in low-income schools. The President's FY 2005 budget provides an increase of $28 million for the expansion of AP programs.
  • Incentives to invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools. The President's FY 2005 budget also includes $227 million in loan forgiveness for math, science and special education teachers in low-income schools.
  • Funding to make the State Scholars program, which requires 4 years of English, 3 years of math and science, and 3 years of social studies, available nationwide. State Scholars encourages high school students to take more rigorous courses to prepare them for college and the workplace.
  • Larger Pell Grants, up to an additional $1,000 per year for the first two years, for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school -- the State Scholars curriculum. The President's FY 2005 budget also requests $12.9 billion (up from $8.7 billion in 2001) for Pell Grants to low-income students pursuing a degree or certificate which can be used for attending technical schools, community colleges or four-year colleges. Since 2001, the President's budgets have increased the number of Pell Grant recipients by one million and have increased the maximum award per low-income student.

President Bush today announced that he will build on these existing initiatives with the following important steps:

Strengthening and Modernizing Support for Vocational Education: The major federal program for vocational education, the Perkins Vocational Education program, has remained fundamentally unchanged since its founding in 1917; President Bush proposes to modernize this pre-World War I program to better serve the needs of the 21st century worker. The President's proposal redirects $1 billion in annual funding from the Perkins Vocational Education program into a new Secondary and Technical Education program (Sec Tech) and requires that schools participating in the program offer 4 years of English, 3 years of math and science, and 3 years of social studies as part of their vocational education curriculum.

Presidential Math and Science Scholars Fund: To ensure that America remains the world leader in the innovation economy -- and to ensure that America's graduates have the training they need to compete for the best jobs of the 21st century -- President Bush wants to expand opportunities for math and science education in colleges and universities. The President proposes establishing a new public-private partnership to provide $100 million in grants to low-income students who study math or science. Under this plan, approximately 20,000 low-income students would receive up to $5000 each to study math or science. Students would have to be eligible for Pell Grants to receive this additional $5,000, although this new fund would be run separately from the Pell Grant program.

The cost of this new initiative would be offset by an important reform to the Pell Grant program. Currently, there is no limit on the number of years an individual can receive a Pell Grant to help pay for an undergraduate degree. The Administration proposes an 8-year equivalent time limit for a 4-year equivalent degree and a 4-year equivalent time limit for a 2-year equivalent degree. This reform would encourage students to finish sooner and eliminate abuse of the program where students extend their studies excessively.

Assessing Whether High Schools Are Producing Educated Graduates: To ensure that students graduating from high school have the skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education or careers, the President's plan would include 12th graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Currently, states are required to participate in the NAEP in 4th and 8th grades in reading and math every two years. Extending this requirement to 12th grade will enable educators to assess whether high schools are meeting the needs of students so they can learn the skills they will need to succeed. It will also help to identify areas where they are not meeting the needs of students and to strengthen curricula to ensure improvement.

The President's initiatives would result in more students graduating from high schools and colleges with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century. Encouraging more students to pursue math and science will also help our economy to continue to lead the world in innovation and will result in better jobs and a brighter economic future for young Americans. With a better trained and better educated workforce, America will continue to be the best place in the world to do business.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: New Education Initiatives for Stronger Workforce Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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