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Public Papers - 1991 - May

Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation to Promote Excellence in Education

1991-05-22

To the Congress of the United States:

I am pleased to transmit today for your immediate consideration and enactment the ``AMERICA 2000 Excellence in Education Act,'' a bill to help America attain the National Education Goals by the year 2000. I believe that a bold and comprehensive effort, involving all sectors of our society, is needed if we are to implement real educational reforms and reach the National Education Goals by the year 2000. The ``AMERICA 2000 Excellence in Education Act'' would authorize specific legislative initiatives designed to support such an effort.

Eight years ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education reported to the Nation that our schools were failing. Since that time, States and localities have enacted a number of school reforms, but these actions have been too slow and too timid. The strategy that I announced on April 18 responds to our need for bold action. It would bring together elected officials, business people, educators, parents, social service providers, civic and religious groups, and, to the greatest extent possible, every American in every community in a crusade to transform our educational system.

AMERICA 2000 is more than just a Federal effort; it is truly a national strategy. Only through a national effort, in which all sectors of society join, will we be able to attain our goals. Further, AMERICA 2000 is not just a program or a set of programs; rather, it is a national crusade. The legislative proposals included in this bill are just components, albeit very important components of a strategy most of which would take place outside the Federal Government.

The ``AMERICA 2000 Excellence in Education Act'' includes the following specific legislative initiatives aimed at fulfilling the principles described below:

The New American Schools program would provide seed money for the start-up of ``break-the-mold'' schools. These schools would: (1) employ the best that is known about teaching and learning; (2) make use, as appropriate, of the latest technologies; and (3) be tailored to meet the needs and characteristics of individual communities. At least one school would be established in each U.S. Congressional District in communities designated as ``AMERICA 2000 Communities.''

The Merit Schools program would reward schools that make notable progress toward achievement of the National Education Goals, particularly the goal of ensuring that all students leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competence in the core academic subjects. At least 20 percent of each State's funding would be used for awards to schools that have made outstanding progress in mathematics and science education. This program would provide a powerful incentive for all schools to improve their educational performance.

Attainment of the National Education Goals will depend heavily on the preparation and performance of teachers, principals, and other school leaders. Therefore, three initiatives focus on providing seed money for the training of teachers and school leaders and for the development of alternative teacher and principal certification programs in the States.

-- Governors' Academies for Teachers would be established in each State. These academies would provide experienced teachers with opportunities for renewal and enhancement of their knowledge and teaching skills in the core academic disciplines of English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. Separate funding would be used by the academies to reward and recognize outstanding teachers of the core subjects.

-- Governors' Academies for School Leaders would operate in each State to provide current and prospective principals and other school leaders with training in instructional leadership, school-based management, school reform strategies, and other skills necessary for effective educational administration.

-- The Alternative Certification of Teachers and Principals program would assist States interested in broadening the pool of talent from which to recruit teachers and principals. Funds would assist States to develop and implement, or expand and improve, flexible certification systems. Through these alternative certification systems, talented professionals, and others who have demonstrated subject matter competence or leadership in fields outside of education could become teachers or principals.

The Educational Reform through Flexibility and Accountability part of the legislation would authorize projects that would improve student outcomes through increased flexibility in using Federal, State, and local categorical funds and services to achieve specific goals.

The bill would also improve the Chapter 2 State grant program by requiring that more funds be reserved at the State level, where more significant educational reform activities can be implemented. The bill would also authorize the use of those funds to support enhancement of parental choice.

Educational choice is one of the most important tools that communities can embrace in their pursuit of educational improvement. Three components of the ``AMERICA 2000 Excellence in Education Act'' address the need for encouraging and testing different methods for enhancing educational choice.

-- The bill would amend the Chapter 1 Compensatory Education program to support decisions by parents making educational choices for their children. As amended, the statute would provide that Chapter 1 services follow the child participating in Chapter 1 to the public or private school that the child chooses to attend. The child's local school system would arrange for Chapter 1 services to ``follow the child'' or, if the school system decides that approach is not feasible or efficient, it would provide the child's parents with a cash grant that would enable them to purchase compensatory education services for their children.

-- The Assistance for Parental Choice initiative would provide payments to local educational agencies that have implemented programs in which parents are permitted, and given sufficient financial incentives, to select among a variety of public and private educational programs.

-- Educational Choice Programs of National Significance would make grants to demonstrate and evaluate approaches that show potential for expanding educational choice.

To assist in measuring progress toward the National Education Goals, the bill would make important changes to the authority for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The bill would authorize the collection of State-representative data on English, mathematics, science, history, and geography in grades four, eight, and twelve beginning in 1994. The legislation would also permit the use of National Assessment tests at district and school levels by States that wish to do so.

Because Americans need to know how much time their children should spend learning and how that time should be used, the bill would authorize creation of a National Commission on Time, Study, Learning, and Teaching.

In support of the National Education Goal that every adult American be literate by the year 2000, the bill would authorize establishment of Regional Literacy Resource Centers. These centers would provide technical assistance to, and enhance coordination among, State and local providers of literacy services.

I urge the Congress to take prompt and favorable action on this legislation. Taken together, these initiatives, coupled with the rest of the AMERICA 2000 strategy, would spur the actions that are necessary for this country to attain the National Education Goals by the year 2000.

George Bush

The White House,

May 22, 1991.

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