Remarks on Signing the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in San Diego
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you I've got a lot of people I want to recognize, very much, ladies and gentlemen, and to the but first I think we ought to give the students boys and girls here. Let me say first of all, a big hand for being so well-behaved and so quiet and so receptive. [Applause] I know that a lot of you may not understand everything that's being said here today, but it's all being said for your future, and the people who came here today came because they care about your future.
I want to recognize, in addition to Congresswoman Lynn Schenk and Congressman Bob Filner who are here with me today—and I thank them for coming; they're up here. They voted for the bill. If they hadn't, it wouldn't have passed. I want to thank your Mayor, Susan Golding, for being here; your superintendent of schools, Dr. Bertha Pendleton; John de Beck, the president of the San Diego School Board; Mary Bergen, representing the California Federation of Teachers; Dr. Lois Tinson, representing the California Teachers Association; Ken Melley, the associate director of the National Education Association; Sandy McBrayer, who's the Teacher of the Year in California— I think you're here somewhere. Stand up. Give her a hand. [Applause] Bless you, ma'am.
I also want you to know that there are a lot of people who are leaders in the business community all over America who work for this program, and some of them have come from a long way away. I saw two; I think three are here all the way from Atlanta. The president of Bell South, one of our country's biggest telephone companies, John Clendenin came. And I saw the chief executive officer of the Boeing Corporation, our Nation's biggest exporter, Mr. Frank Shrontz, is here. And I was told that Joe Gorman is here, the chairman of TRW, but I didn't see him back there.
Anyway, all these people have come here because they care about you and your future. I want to especially thank my good friend Dick Riley, who just spoke, for the work he did on this legislation, and many of his staff members, but especially Mike Cohen, who worked on this whole issue with me as a Governor, with Secretary Riley, and Bill Galston in the White House. I want to thank the Governors and the State legislators who worked with us, as well as the fine Members of Congress of both parties. We have so much partisan wrangling in Congress, but this bill passed with over 300 votes in the House of Representatives, and only 120 voted no; 63 votes in the United States Senate, only 22 voting no.
I want to say, too, that it is very appropriate for me to be here with all of you to sign this bill. The San Diego School District is well known for being on the leading edge of school reform and giving our children a better future. Your former superintendent, Tom Payzant, now serves as our Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. Give him a hand there. [Applause] And I know Bertha Pendleton is continuing her outstanding work. I also want to say a special word of thanks to your principal, Dr. Jeannie Steeg.
I have been told that your school is one of the very best schools in this whole school district and in this State. And I want to thank you for striving to achieve excellence in every area with a student body that is very diverse, racially and ethnically and economically. You look like America will look in the 21st century, and we have to win with you.
I also want to thank you for what you put up on the basketball goal; that was very nice. [Laughter] And I'd like to thank the students here who are wearing their D.A.R.E. T-shirts, all of you. I love the D.A.R.E. program, and I'm glad you're active in it and support it.
Let me tell you why this bill is important to the future of the young people here today and those like you all across America. You know you're growing up into a world that is increasingly smaller, where people are connected financially and by communications networks that were unheard of when I was your age. The average young person will change work seven or eight times in a lifetime. The only real ticket to these kids' future is good jobs that come from good skills, learning a lot in school, and being able to learn for a lifetime.
What this Goals 2000 bill does, believe it or not, for the first time in the entire history of the United States of America, is to set worldclass education standards for what every child in every American school should know in order to win when he or she becomes an adult. We have never done it before; we are going to do it now because of this bill.
Why do we do that? Because we believe every child can and must learn at world-class standards of excellence. And those of us who are older believe we have a practical and a moral obligation to see that you have the chance to do it. This Goals 2000 legislation sets into law the national education goals that, as Secretary Riley said, I worked very hard to write back in 1989. It says that every student, every student, should enter school ready and able to learn. It says that 90 percent of our young people should graduate from high school on time, just the way our competitors do. It says that we must meet world-class standards in reading and writing, math and science, history, geography, foreign language, civics and economics, and the arts. It says that we have to take care of our teachers better. We have to prepare them better, enable them to continue to learn. It says that in a world in which families are under increasing stress, we can't succeed in our schools unless parents are more involved, and we have to find ways to help them do it. It acknowledges that most of the problems in American education have been solved somewhere by somebody, and we need more research and innovation to make available the successes everywhere to people who don't have them yet. There is no reason in the world that if somebody is doing something in Alaska that works, people in San Diego shouldn't know about it and have access to it immediately. And finally, it says that our schools have to be safe and disciplined and free of drugs and crime, and we have to work to make them so.
Besides these academic standards, this bill will set national skill standards to ensure that our workers are better trained for the high-skill, high-wage jobs we want for America and better able to compete in the world.
This bill provides funds—modest amounts this year, much more in the years to come—funds to make our schools safer and freer of crime and drugs, funds for those who need the most. It provides funds to support the innovations of local communities. I am proud of the fact that this bill contains not one single mandate or order to any State or any local school district. Instead, it sets standards. It says we know you want to meet them, and we are prepared to help you if you will be innovative and try some new things and make them work.
I guess I've spent more time in schools than any person who was ever elected President— that makes it sound like I didn't pass from grade to grade—[laughter]—but what I mean by that is I've spent a lot of time visiting schools and listening to teachers and watching teaching take place. And I know that learning does not occur in Washington, DC, it does not occur in Sacramento, or even here at the local school board office. The magic of education occurs in the classroom, supported by whatever happens in the home. That's where it happens.
So, in addition to providing funds to try to help make schools safer, this bill says we're going to try something new. We're going to have world-class standards implemented with grassroots reforms. We're going to give more waivers and cut the redtape to districts who want to try new and different and innovative things. We're going to support schools that let the teachers and the principals try things that innovate, that do things to involve parents, that are succeeding. We're going to encourage people to experiment with new and different things all across this country. People are trying things that work, that are different, that have never been tried before, different ways of managing schools, different people organizing schools in different ways.
But we know in the end what has to happen is that the children have to learn. So we want world-class standards. We want a way of measuring whether the children learn them or not, and then we want to say to people all across the country, "Here are the standards. Here's how we'll know whether you'll make it or not. Now, you figure out how to do it. Use your mind, use your energy, and we will support you. We'll try to make your schools safe havens if you will take the leadership to do it, and we'll try to encourage all your best ideas, all your energy."
This is a new and different approach for the National Government, but it's how learning really happens in the schools. You know it, and it's time now that your country recognizes it. This is a remarkable departure. First, there have never been any national standards. Second, there's never been any way to measure them. Third, there's never been any national skills standards for our workers. But fourth, we never thought we could do it with grassroots reforms. We're telling you we know you have the answers. You go find them, and we'll tell you how you're doing along the way, and we'll support you when you win for our children.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is just the beginning of this process. It will only work if, year-in and year-out, the Congress continues to support the effort; only work if we continue to provide good preschool opportunities until every child is in a good Head Start program or another program like it. It will only work when we provide an opportunity for every child who doesn't go to college to get the kind of skills training they need. Every child who wants to go to college will never have to worry about how to pay for it again. And every adult will have the opportunity to get lifetime training. That's what we have to do.
But this is the beginning; it is the foundation. And as the Secretary said, today we can say America is serious about education, America cares about the future of every child, and America will lead the world in the 21st century because we're going to make sure you will be there on the frontlines, living up to the fullest of your God-given capacities.
Thank you all very much, and bless you all.
Now, I'm going to sign this little bill here. And then when I sign the real little bill, I'm going to sign this copy of the big bill. And all of them are going to help me since it's really their bill and their ticket to the future, all the students who are up here.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. at the Zamorano Fine Arts Academy. H.R. 1804, approved March 31, was assigned Public Law No. 103-227.
William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in San Diego Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218699