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White House Fact Sheet on Proposed Educational Excellence Legislation

April 05, 1989

The President outlined today a program for fostering excellence in education. The need for reform is evident:

America is in an increasingly competitive world, where investment in people, in human capital, is becoming a critical factor in a country's potential for economic growth and prosperity.

Many of our young people are performing well below their capacity and below the levels of young people in other countries in such important subjects as science and math.

Outstanding achievement by schools, teachers, and principals too often goes unrecognized and unrewarded.

Achieving excellence in education requires high expectations, low dropout rates, and safe and drug-free schools.

Parents lack adequate choice in the education of their children.

Schools often find that it is difficult to hire capable teachers and administrators, even though many people possess outstanding subject matter knowledge and management skills.

Projections of the future indicate an increasing shortage of people with advanced training in science and mathematics.

Our country's historically black colleges and universities struggle to maintain their commitment to educational excellence.

The Educational Excellence Act would authorize several initiatives designed to address these problems.

This legislation builds on the accomplishments of the last Congress, which enacted into law the Augustus F. Hawkins-Robert T. Stafford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Amendments of 1988. That law took significant steps toward improving elementary and secondary education by improving program accountability, reauthorizing the magnet school program, and expanding parental choice, providing greater flexibility to local school districts in the implementation of bilingual education programs, enhancing parental involvement in programs for disadvantaged children, and stimulating education innovation and reform. The President's initiative proposes new efforts, but complements in numerous ways the important work of the 100th Congress in pursuing educational excellence.

This legislation is based on four basic principles. These are:

1. Recognition of Excellence. Recognizing and rewarding our best schools, teachers, and students will serve as an incentive for all schools, teachers, and students to improve their performance.

2. Addressing Need. This administration believes that Federal dollars should assist those most in need.

3. Flexibility and Choice. Greater flexibility and choice in education, both parental choice in selecting schools for their children and local school systems' choice of teachers and principals, are important to providing the means and incentives for achieving educational excellence.

4. Accountability. The administration supports objective measurement and reward of progress toward quality education.

The Educational Excellence Act includes seven legislative initiatives aimed at fulfilling these important principles. Highlights of the individual initiatives follow.

Presidential Merit Schools


The Presidential Merit Schools program would provide cash awards to public and private elementary and secondary schools that have made substantial progress in raising student educational achievement, creating a safe and drug-free school environment, and reducing the dropout rate. This program would provide a powerful incentive for all schools to improve the educational achievement of their students.


The legislation would authorize $250 million for fiscal year 1990, increasing to $500 million by 1993. These funds would be allocated by formula to the States, with State allocations based on school-aged population and State shares of funding under the Chapter 1 Basic Grants program.

The amount of each merit award would depend on State-established criteria, including criteria related to the size of the school and the composition of the student body.


Presidential Merit Schools would be selected by the State, assisted by a special State review panel, using State and Federal criteria. These criteria would focus on schools' progress in improving students' educational performance, creating or maintaining a safe and drug-free environment, reducing the dropout rate, and other State-determined factors. States could also give special consideration to schools enrolling substantial numbers or proportions of children from low-income families.

A school selected as a Presidential Merit School would use its award for any purpose that furthers its educational program, including development or implementation of special educational programs, purchase of computers and other materials and equipment, and bonus payments to teachers and administrators. Private schools would be prohibited from using Presidential Merit Schools funds to provide religious instruction or for other sectarian purposes.

The bill would also prohibit the reduction of other Federal, State, or local support to a school because of its receipt of a Presidential Merit Schools award.

Magnet Schools of Excellence


Currently, the Department of Education makes Magnet Schools Assistance grants to school systems undergoing court-ordered or voluntary desegregation. Because of the success of magnet schools in increasing parental choice and improving educational quality, the bill would create a Magnet Schools of Excellence program to support the establishment, expansion, or enhancement of magnet schools, without regard to the presence of desegregation plans.


The bill would authorize $100 million for Magnet Schools of Excellence for fiscal year 1990 and each of the 3 succeeding fiscal years.


Local educational agencies, intermediate educational agencies, or consortia of such agencies would apply directly to the Department for competitive grants. Applications would be selected for funding on the basis of the quality of the proposed project, the likelihood of its successful implementation, and the likelihood of its strengthening the educational program of the district or districts.

The Department would encourage applications that recognize the potential of educationally disadvantaged children to benefit from magnet school programs and applications to establish, expand, or enhance magnet schools which enhance the diversity of educational offerings to students.

No magnet school could be supported under the program for more than 2 years or if the award would result in segregation or impede the process of desegregation.

Alternative Certification of Teachers and Principals


The bill would provide assistance to States interested in expanding the pool of talent from which to draw teachers and principals. Funds would support such activities as training, program development, and evaluation. The bill would provide incentives for States to develop, expand, or improve flexible certification systems designed to draw into education talented professionals with demonstrated subject-area competence or leadership qualities.


The legislation would authorize $25 million for fiscal year 1990 only, for one-time grants to the States. States would apply for the amount of funds they need or an amount that is proportional to their school-aged population, whichever is less; excess funds would be reallocated on the basis of demonstrated need.


Grants could support the design, development, implementation, testing, and evaluation of strategies for the alternative certification of teachers and principals, as well as training and recruitment activities.

States would be required to consult with teachers, principals, parents, and others in developing their applications. Subgrants to school districts, intermediate educational agencies, colleges and universities, and consortia of these agencies would be authorized.

President's Awards for Excellence in Education


The success of American education depends heavily on the Nation's teachers. Because teachers who meet the highest standards of excellence deserve public recognition, respect, and appropriate financial rewards, our bill includes authorization for a new program of Presidential awards for excellent public and private school teachers. The amount of each Presidential award would be $5,000. Teachers receiving awards would be permitted to use their awards for any purpose.


The bill would authorize $7.6 million for each of the fiscal years 1990 through 1993. Funds would be allocated to the States on the basis of the number of full-time equivalent public school teachers in each State.


In each State, winners of Presidential awards would be selected by a statewide panel, selected by the Governor, from nominations made by local educational agencies, public and private schools, parents, teachers, teacher associations, associations of parents and teachers, private businesses, business groups, and student groups. In making selections, the panel would use selection criteria developed by the State, subject to approval by the Secretary.

Each State would be permitted to use up to 5 percent of its allocation for administrative expenses, including the cost of convening the statewide panel.

National Science Scholars


The National Science Scholars program would encourage achievement in the sciences by providing scholarships to graduating high school students who have excelled in the sciences and mathematics and engineering. The scholarships would recognize the academic achievement of these students and would encourage them to continue their education in these academic areas at the postsecondary level.


The bill would authorize $5 million for fiscal year 1990. The amount authorized would increase in increments of $5 million per year to a total authorization of $20 million for fiscal year 1993. These funding levels would ensure that the scholars would be supported throughout their undergraduate study and that a new group of 570 scholars would be selected each year.


National Science Scholars would receive up to $10,000 a year for each year of undergraduate education.

Each State would nominate between 4 and 10 students per congressional district to receive scholarships. The President would select a total of 570 scholars, after considering the recommendations of an advisory board (30 scholarships) and the recommendations of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives (540 scholarships). The scholars would be nominated in accordance with specific academic achievement criteria that would be developed by the Secretary in consultation with a panel of experts in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Drug-Free Schools Urban Emergency Grants


Prevention and education programs are frequently inadequate in urban areas with the most severe drug problems. More concentrated and comprehensive approaches are required. The bill would amend the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986 to authorize a program of Urban Emergency Grants.


The bill would authorize $25 million for each of the fiscal years 1990 - 1993 for Urban Emergency Grants.


This amendment would authorize a small number of special, competitive grants to urban districts that have the most severe drug problems so that these districts can develop and implement comprehensive approaches to solving those problems.

Historically Black Colleges and



Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) play a vital role in the American system of higher education. In the past, these institutions offered many Black Americans their only opportunity for a higher education. Today HBCU's enrich the range of educational choice. These institutions enroll approximately 220,000 students.

Many HBCU's are financially weaker than comparable institutions. This bill would strengthen HBCU's by providing additional support for endowment matching grants. Endowment building is an especially effective way to create financial strength and long-term financial security for HBCU's.


The bill would provide additional authorizations of $10 million for fiscal year 1990, $20 million for both fiscal year 1991 and fiscal year 1992, and $10 million for fiscal year 1993.


Federal funds would be available to match private sector contributions to the school's endowment fund. Income from the endowment fund could be used to improve academic programs as well as administrative management.

All HBCU's currently eligible under title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965 would be eligible to apply for grants.

George Bush, White House Fact Sheet on Proposed Educational Excellence Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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