Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Education Amendments of 1978 and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act

November 01, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. It took me all morning to read this bill. [Laughter]

It's a great pleasure for me to take part in this ceremony of recognizing a historic achievement on the part of the Congress.

In 1965 I was a State senator in Georgia, very interested in education, and I was invited to meet with the Secretary of HEW in the final preparation of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act.

I think more than any other Congress in history, perhaps even including those who served in 1965, this Congress has been the most education minded and has done the most in dollar terms for education in our country. The totality of what has been accomplished in these two bills is very difficult to assess, certainly in a brief period of time.

It opens up aid to the most disadvantaged children, more than 2 million additional children who live in very poor neighborhoods or whose families stiffer from poverty or deprivation will be aided by this legislation. The legislation also emphasizes additional progress in the basic skills, the ability to read, to write, and to perform mathematical problems.

I think this opens up a way also to enhance the already improving interrelationship between the Federal, State, and local governments in the administration and the support, financially, of the American education system. There is no encroachment in these bills by the Federal Government into the administration or decisionmaking process of the local school system. We've been careful about that.
There's an increased ability in budgeting to remove the abuses in the so-called Impact Aid legislation that has been on the books for too long and which heavily favors some undeserving communities at the expense of others.

There's a substantial reduction available now to reduce paperwork by simplification of administration of grant programs and by reducing the reporting required and still leaving accountability intact.

We have made major steps forward in bilingual education, long overdue progress, and improving the educational opportunities of Native Americans, American Indians, and providing additional assistance in guaranteeing the educational rights of women.

Again, within the bounds of other laws and constitutional provisions, this legislation will provide an additional emphasis and impetus to the desegregation of our schools to remove deprivation of human rights, of basic civil rights. And there's additional aid available in this legislation also for students who attend private schools.

I would like to point out that in the legislation concerning middle-income student assistance relating to the colleges, this legislation is completely compatible with the recommendations made by me to the Congress earlier this year. I'm very grateful that it has materialized in this fine fashion. It provides substantially increased student aid for students from low- and middle-income families, increases the income level of families that are eligible for loans, provides additional guarantees of interest to be paid by the Federal Government for students who are still in college, and expands the college students who are covered by a net increase of 2 million.

I'm particularly grateful to the Members of Congress who played the leadership role in this major effort. I won't try to mention them all, but I would like to mention especially Senator Williams, Senator Pell, who's here, Congressman Carl Perkins, Congressman Ford, and others who have worked in a yeoman fashion to make this success possible.

I'd also like to thank Joe Califano and Mary Berry and Commissioner Boyer 1 for the good work they did on behalf of my own administration.

The students of America, of all ages, can benefit greatly from this new legislation. It encompasses a total of about $12 billion in additional aid focused particularly among those who need it most, from the pre-elementary grades, all the way up through college. And I want to express on behalf of the American people my thanks to all who have been responsible for making this success possible.

Thank you very much, everyone.

[At this point, the President signed the bills.]

I'd like to ask Claiborne Pell if he has a comment to make. Do you favor the legislation? [Laughter]

SENATOR PELL. I think it will do exactly what you say and will mean there's no reason why any American youngster feels that he cannot achieve higher education because of financial reasons, providing he can cut the mustard and is willing to extend himself.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Joe, would you like to comment?

SECRETARY CALIFANO. Mr. President, I think it makes you a great education President. This is the largest increase in the history of elementary and secondary education aid since the program began, and for the first time in the history of this country, every single student who can get into college is eligible for a loan to help him or her get through college. And I think that just puts your brand on education the way it is in your bones. So, I think it's great.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Does anyone else have a comment? Bill?

REPRESENTATIVE FORD. Thank you, Mr. President. I recall when you announced the initiative on the higher education legislation here at the White House. There were many people across the country who said that it was much too ambitious, that it couldn't be done, that the Congress would not respond well. I think it speaks very well of your leadership and the way in which you were able to convince the Congress that the time had come to make this bold step, that this legislation you now sign is the largest single infusion of higher education money for middle-income and working-class families since the G.I. bill at the end of World War II.

And I agree with Joe Califano. I was here in 1965, as he was. We thought that we would never again see a Congress like that. This Congress in response to your leadership will go down among other things as a great education Congress, and your name in the books for all of history in education is certainly assured.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you for those comments.

I might say in closing that there's been a great deal of publicity given to the lack of passage, absence of passage of the tuition tax credits. This was a proposal that I personally did not favor. I think the Congress acted wisely in this respect. This provides a much greater benefit to college students who need it most. It's a carefully balanced program, and I think the benefits to be derived, compared to the dollars spent from the Federal Treasury, are greatly an improvement over what was proposed as an alternative.

But the sum total of this largest appropriation since the program began for elementary and secondary education, and the greatest improvement in history for college student loans and grants, is a notable step, and again, let me thank all of you for making this possible. I'm very proud to be part of it.

Thank you very much.

1 Mary F. Berry, Assistant Secretary for Education, and Ernest L. Boyer, Commissioner of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Note: The President spoke at 2:05 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 15, the Education Amendments of 1978, is Public Law 95-561, and S. 2539, the Middle Income Student Assistance Act, is Public Law 95-566, both approved November 1.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Education Amendments of 1978 and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243758

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