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Public Papers - 1991

Exchange With Reporters on the National Education Strategy Prior to a Meeting With the Nation's Governors

1991-04-18

The President. You don't need to position these because I'm not going to say anything.

Q. Are all these Governors supportive of your education plan? Have they seen it?

The President. Well, I'd -- maybe Governor Ashcroft could address himself to that, because I don't take questions in here in the Oval Office, as we all know now. [Laughter] But it's nice, though, when we have distinguished visitors to say something.

Governor Ashcroft. Well, I'm very supportive of it. And each Governor, of course, will see how the plan fits with his State. But I think the key to this is that the plan reinforces a number of things that Governors have been trying to do. One, it's performance oriented. Two, it really is designed to reinforce innovation and creativity. And those are two things that Governors have really been eager to support on both sides of the political aisle. And we're thrilled to have the kind of leadership on this -- at least I am, and I think you'll find that to be the opinion of Governors generally.

Q. Do you think the Federal Government's doing enough?

Governor Ashcroft. I think this is very much needed and appreciated leadership. And we're all trying to find ways to improve our performance and do a better job of elevating the capacity of the best and most resource we have: young people. And the debate about how much is done is different in every community, but we're trying not only to do more but to do better.

My primary objective is for us to be more productive in the education process in Missouri. And productivity there is as essential to our national survival as it is in the industry because, ultimately, as competitors on the world scene, we've got to have cost-effective and productive components in our national output, and education is one of the components we have. So, we want to be more productive, and that means we want students to do better as a result of our educational effort.

Governor Romer. Let me speak -- I'd like to speak to that as a Democratic Governor. Everybody in this room cares deeply about education. We've all got a role to play. The President is coming to the table with a lot more aggressive action, and we welcome it. It's good. I think 92 percent of the education of the youngsters in America is the job of Governors. We need the President's help. And I think that his commitment to spend more time and more energy and more effort on this is very welcomed. We really have a job to do.

Secondly, this plan has some new and good ideas. And we in America, I think, need to respond -- everybody in every community. Because if we don't improve our skill levels, we're not going to be competitive. But I think what we ought to remember is, we not only need to have these new ideas explored -- and they're good ideas -- but we've got a basic job of supporting education out there.

There's 110,000 schools. They all need to have -- everybody's suffering. And I think what we're saying here is we've got a partnership. We need to be a partner.

The President. It started back in Charlottesville -- --

Governor Romer. That's right.

The President. Well, not started, but it was focused back there.

Governor Romer. And as the Governor who is, at this present time, chairman of this goals panel, I think that we've got a partnership with the President and with Congress and with Governors and with State legislators and school leaders throughout the country. And so, I think what we ought to do today is to look at this as a very encouraging new emphasis. And I want to compliment Lamar Alexander for adding some leadership as a part of the Cabinet that I think, personally, was very much needed.

Q. So there's no politics involved?

Governor Romer. You know, look -- good government is good politics. Good education is good politics. And I think I speak for every Governor in this room: We're going to go and do the very best job we can to educate both the young and the adults of America. And I think those of us that do the best job are going to get the political benefit. You know, the competition ought to be, who can do the best job? And who can deliver? And I just want to say, you know, as a Democrat I come here today saying education is more important than partisan politics. And we ought to try to work in a bipartisan way. The country ought to judge us by what we do, not by what we say.

The President. Good point.

Governor Branstad. And I would add that the Governors, you know, the Governors of this country -- and I think a lot of credit goes to Lamar Alexander when he was Governor of Tennessee -- have been at the forefront of promoting education reform for a long period of time. Charlottesville was an outstanding example of the Governors and the President coming together to reach a consensus on education policy. We now have six national goals. We know we've got a long ways to go to achieve those by the year 2000. And we're all going to have to work very diligently with the support of the business community and those people that are actively involved in education. The classroom teachers and the parents are very important players in this as well.

We certainly welcome the leadership that the President is providing by getting personally involved in this. Nobody can give it the visibility that the President of the United States can give it. Each Governor, in his or her own State, certainly tries to do what they can to give it visibility. But I think this is a great boost for American education.

The President: Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Q. Thank you.

Q. Well, they sang for their supper, didn't they?

The President. They said what they think; that's what Governors do.

Note: The exchange began at 10:05 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. Governors John Ashcroft of Missouri, Roy Romer of Colorado, and Terry E. Branstad of Iowa participated in the exchange. Lamar Alexander was Secretary of Education.

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