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Press Briefing by Richard Riley, Secretary of Education

March 27, 1996

Aboard Air Force One

En Route to Palisades, New York

10:39 A.M. EST

SECRETARY RILEY: I hate to mess your breakfast up. Are you all listening?

Q: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY RILEY: I was up there yesterday and they, of course, had their opening meetings, then we had break-out sessions. And everybody really dealt with the three issues: standards, assessment and technology. And the break-out sessions were very lively, no press kind of meetings -- the press slows things down. But it was -- they had six of them, I think, and I was involved in one of them.

And then they will come back today. They're going to spend the morning dealing with technology. Last night they had a panel and they had four or five discussion questions put to the panel, and the panel -- they all involved state standards and assessment and the NAEP test and so forth. And today will be a technology thing.

And then I think it will be a real interesting time for the President to come in, because the conference, there's no question of the strong state push in the conference. And it's a push that we like. I mean, we think that's where it ought to be, but it's very clear. And, of course, when you get all these governors together they are very, very clear about accepting their responsibility for state standards and assessment linked to those standards. And, of course, that's what we push for and it's very much in line with what we think they should be about.

But you'll sense that when you get up there, that it's very much state-driven and not, what can we get out of the federal government for whatever. The role we play, of course, is a supportive role. It is coming out of, really, Charlottesville. We think that we have geared our agenda in education totally consistent with what the governors said they wanted coming out of Charlottesville. I think that's really important, that we didn't go off in some tangent, but we recognize that education is a state responsibility and a local function, but it has to be a national priority.

And our country is in the middle of this education era, the most important, largest, powerful country in the history of the world. And in the middle of the education era the country has to be supportive of education, quality education, excellence in education, notching up education. And that's what we support. But we fully recognize state and local control and responsibility of how to do it. But all of our efforts have been toward more flexibility, more recognition that the states can have waivers to get these formerly highly regulated federal laws changed to meet their local situations and a lot more power in that, at the school site and at the school district site.

Q: How do you think that the states are going to react to what the President's going to say today about urging the standardized tests?

SECRETARY RILEY: I think they will receive that very well. The President, of course, is not saying that we're going to do it, but he's challenging them to do it. And I think that's the role the President should play. And I think it'll be a challenging role -- and I was appreciative of them inviting the President to come, it's like Bush was involved in '89. And I think his approach will mention several challenges, of course, but it really will be kind of above the fray of -- which they're dealing with a lot of up there -- and that is how to do it. You know, how should we on the state level get more people involved in developing standards and where should the standards come from and how about the voluntary national standards; or should we as states join together, four or five states, and have regional standards; how we go about developing standards.

Well, when we talk about national standards, we mean all of that; and the more you have, the better. Of course, we can play a good role in trying to give best practices and give all of the different suggestions out to governors and chiefs, or whatever. We think national standards, you mean the standards that are put together nationally on this consensus process -- it was formed before we got there, but we support; and all the work the states are doing and the regions are doing. And then when a state is deciding what their standard will be, say, for math or science, they would have maybe two or three or four different quality standards to look at, and they can kind of pick and choose among them.

Q: Secretary Riley, you talk about pushing this more off to the states. The states don't sound very happy that the federal government isn't playing a bigger role in this conference. Glendenning was on TV this morning claiming that the federal government has abandoned the states. How do you react to that type of criticism?

SECRETARY RILEY: Well, the federal government has not abandoned the states. And I was with Mr. Glendenning all afternoon and we talked about all of these various issues. The federal government -- there's talk there, some people are very interested in a more controlled national set of standards, you know what I mean? And that's not an unreal feeling among some people up there, probably a lot of business people -- I don't want to put their judgment in my mouth. But probably more feeling that we should have standards that we could compare with other countries. And to do that you have to have more uniformed standards.

What we support is really what we think the law is, and that is that states are responsible for standards and assessment, and then we want to provide any help that we can. And to say that we are not providing help -- we're over there fighting in the Congress right now to try to get more support, not control, but support. And I think that's a very important difference.

We certainly haven't abandoned the states. I mean, we're trying to do more to help them and not less.

Q: What's the difference between '89 and now, besides that the government is --

SECRETARY RILEY: To look at this importance of having governors -- you know, if you look back very many years, governors had nothing to do with education. They weren't even -- education was done by the education folks. When I was a governor, and Bill Clinton was, was when we really first started getting into education. Now, governors have, in '89, really got

into looking at national goals and try to get their state up to the national goals and so forth.

Now, there's work being done in all 50 states on standards and assessment. Some states don't have much work going on, some have an awful lot. You know, some are there in many standards. So all of that work is going on. The only standard that has had any period of time is math and that, of course, was done by the math teachers -- to their credit. And look what's happened in math. Math test scores have gone up about a year's level. So we're very -- we think that's a good example that standards work.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what's your proposed budget for '97 fiscal year; and are Republicans trying to cut it?

SECRETARY RILEY: Well, of course, '97, we have a request for like a seven percent -- I might want to give you the exact number, but it's a little over seven percent -- if you don't count Pell, because we used some of the Pell surplus to fund Pell and other things. So if you pull Pell out, it's like a seven percent increase. If you put Pell in, it's like a four percent increase.

And we think that's with a balanced budget, seven year, CBO numbers. So we think that's a major commitment on the part of the President to support that kind of a budget for 1997. Now, this is over '95, the percentages, because we don't know what '97 is, unfortunately.

Okay. Are we landing or something?

Q: Yes, pretty soon.


THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 10:49 A.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Richard Riley, Secretary of Education Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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