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Letter to Congressional Leaders on Proposed Education Legislation

July 19, 1999

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. Leader:)

Nothing will do more to prepare all of our people to succeed in the 21st century than strengthening our public schools. That's why I am deeply concerned about the legislation that the House is preparing to consider that undermines a bipartisan commitment to reduce class size in the early grades across the nation. If the Congress sends me H.R. 1995 in its current form, I will veto it in order to protect our nation's commitment to smaller classes and better schools.

Last year, Congress came together across party lines to make a down payment to begin hiring 100,000 well-prepared teachers to reduce class size to a nationwide average of 18. Earlier this month, the Education Department released $1.2 billion in grants to help states and local school districts begin hiring the first 30,000 welltrained teachers for the new school year. Now is the time to work together to keep our bipartisan commitment on class size, not walk away from it.

After all, research confirms what parents and teachers understand: smaller classes with wellprepared teachers have a lasting impact on student achievement, with the greatest benefits for lower achieving, minority, and poor children.

Earlier this year, I sent to Congress my proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would help all students reach high standards by strengthening accountability, improving teacher quality, and building on our progress to reduce class size in the early grades all across America. Regrettably, in its current form, H.R. 1995 abolishes a dedicated funding stream for class size reduction and replaces it with a block grant that fails to guarantee that any funding will be used for hiring new teachers to reduce class size. It eliminates the focus on early grades where smaller classes make the most difference and help children learn to read and master the basics. Moreover, the block grant could be used simply to replace state or local funding instead of increasing overall investment in our public schools. I urge the House to approve a substitute measure that I understand will be offered by Representative Martinez, that would improve teacher quality and maintain our commitment to the classsize reduction effort begun last year.

Last year we made a promise to America's children to provide smaller classes with wellprepared teachers. I urge Congress to keep that promise by enacting legislation that improves our nation's schools by ensuring greater investments in education, improved teacher quality, and smaller classes all across America.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Richard A. Gephardt, minority leader, House of Representatives.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Congressional Leaders on Proposed Education Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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