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Town Hall Question

September 26, 2000

I am a preschool teacher. I am also going to school to become a teacher in the elementary grades. I currently have a scholarship through TEACH of Indiana thanks to Gov. Frank O'Bannon. I want to know if there [are] any plans in the future to help with the pay in my field because if you look at it we are shaping the future.

Renee
Indianapolis, IN

I agree with you, Renee, teachers shape the future. Quality education is our best anti-poverty program and most powerful anti-discrimination measure. Quality education starts with quality teachers and I believe we need to pay teachers like the professionals they are.

My plan would invest $8 billion over 10 years to provide salary increases to teachers in communities where school districts, businesses, and teachers' unions adopt aggressive plans to boost teacher quality and raise teacher standards. All qualified teachers in these districts would receive salary increases of up to $5,000 and outstanding master teachers reaching an advanced professional standard would receive up to $10,000.

To ensure that our schools have enough well-trained teachers, I support investing in a 21st Century Teacher Corps to aggressively recruit new teachers. The plan provides up to $10,000 in college aid for 560,000 young people who commit to teach in high-need schools after college, and up to $10,000 in signing bonuses for 140,000 professionals who switch careers to teach. It will also ensure loan forgiveness for 300,000 students who agree to teach in high-need schools and shortage subject areas like math and science. Local partnerships involving school districts and non-profit organizations would receive federal grants to design and administer local chapters of the teacher corps and ensure that new teachers receive training and support needed to make a successful transition into teaching.

Providing a high-quality education for all of our children is a challenge our nation must meet. Recruiting and rewarding dedicated teachers are key components of my plan to make revolutionary improvements in our education system to meet this challenge.

September 9, 2000

I am the parent of a 2/1/2 year old son and have started my first semester at Penn State University. I am taking a Political Science class and the question was raised [in the class] that there is little being said about what either candidate plans to do to help parents with the cost of daily child care which [now exceeds] $500.00 per month. If you are elected what do you plan to do to help working families and those in situations like mine and my classmates with the ever increasing cost of child care?

Jessica McClain
Penn State University

Thank you for your question, Jessica. Our country needs ambitious parents like you, and your question demonstrates an additional cost of your higher education that I want to help you bear. Since my years in Congress, I have supported federal funding to help working families with child care. As President, I will continue to fight for improved access to affordable, high-quality child care. My plan includes several components.

I would offer a refundable tax credit to help parents pay up to 50 percent of child care expenses. In addition, we should expand the existing Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) to help 3 million working families afford quality child care. I will work to expand the Child Care and Development Block Grant to subsidize child care for nearly 150,000 more low-income children next year.

As President, I will help another five million working families across America pay for the after-school programs of their choice through a new refundable After-School Tax Credit (ASTC) for families with children ages six to 16. Building on the non-refundable CDCTC, which is limited to children through age 12, the ASTC would provide up to a 50 percent credit (depending on income) for after-school expenses. This will help increase our commitment to after-school care, so children have a place to learn in those afternoon hours when most juvenile crime, alcohol and drug use occur.

These steps will complement my education plan to help parents ensure their children are prepared for school. My plan includes creating voluntary universal preschool for all four-year-olds and a growing number of three-year-olds. I have called for a $1 billion expansion of Head Start - the largest expansion in its history - to provide Head Start and Early Head Start to approximately 950,000 children, with a goal of serving at least 1 million children by 2002. I have called for $3 billion over five years for the Early Learning Fund to help improve child care quality and early childhood education for children under 5 years old.

I believe we must honor families by expanding child care, and after-school care, and family and medical leave - so working and learning parents have the help they need to care for their children - because the most important job of all is raising our children.

September 1, 2000

How are you going to reform special education?

Lauren Parris
Renton, WA

Lauren, thank you for visiting our electronic Town Hall. To answer your question, I know that the nation's legal and moral commitment to providing a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities has opened the doors of public schools to millions of students. We must substantially increase the federal investment to support states and school districts in guaranteeing this essential right, while ensuring adequate support to help all children get a high-quality education. The federal government must become a stronger partner to help states and school districts uphold this important obligation, while maintaining the investments needed to provide all of our children with a high-quality education.

My education plan includes strengthening the nation's commitment to providing students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education. It sets aside funding to make the largest single increase ever enacted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. My plan also establishes funding pools to help small school districts pay for the education of students with especially high-cost special needs. I have also proposed an early identification and intervention fund and investment in training teachers to address the needs of students with disabilities.

August 31, 2000

As long as students…are in inadequate learning environments, talk will simply not cut it. As a voter, I want to know what is going to be done in the next four years to fix this problem. Our future leaders depend on their educational opportunities to compete in the narrowing global market.

Emily Griffin
Hastings, NE

Emily, thank you for visiting my Web site and expressing your feelings on the condition of schools across the country.

I know that we cannot lift up our children in schools that are falling down. Therefore, I want to make sure that all teachers have safe, modern classrooms. In 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers said that school buildings represented the nation's most pressing infrastructure need. The average school building is 42 years old, and at least one-third of this nation's schools need to be replaced or modernized in the coming years. Research shows that overcrowding and deteriorating conditions undermine student learning. That is why I have proposed, as part of my $115 billion Education Reform Trust Fund, a plan to help cover the interest on $25 billion in state and local bonds, helping states and communities modernize up to 6000 public schools. This is in addition to the $22 billion in public bonding authority this Administration procured to repair over 5000 public schools in 1998. Together, these measures will help communities ensure that all students can attend school in modern, well-equipped classrooms.

Since 90 percent of American students attend public schools, I believe that public schools are critical to training our future leaders. That is why I am committed to implementing education policies that fundamentally improve public education, not the least of which is making sure that our children have the facilities necessary to thrive.

August 31, 2000

I am a mother of six children and enjoy the freedom of home schooling. I have not heard you address this issue. Do you feel parents should have the freedom of choice to home school their children? This is a concern of mine and I would like to hear your view of this subject.

Yvonne Myrick

Yvonne, thank you for visiting my website and asking an important question about educating our children. As you well know, parents are a child's first teachers. Home schooling is a growing effort by many parents to direct the education of their children. There are no U.S. Department of Education regulations related to home schooling. States have set parameters, such as regular testing and reporting, to assure that children in home school settings are learning and progressing. Nothing in my education proposal would alter this arrangement or discourage parents from teaching their children in their home.

For those who have the means, home schooling can increase individual attention for children. It can also increase parental involvement in their children's lives. These elements are essential to improving education for our children attending public schools as well. My administration would be fully committed to making sure more students in public schools get individual attention through Head Start, voluntary universal preschool, and smaller classes. I wish you and your children great success in home schooling.

August 31, 2000

Do you propose any specific increases in Head Start funding during the next year?

Miriam Burkett
Alexandria, VA

Miriam, you raise a very important issue. I want to help ensure that every child starts school ready to learn. Children begin to explore their world as they learn to walk, talk, and ask questions.

Head Start is a very important tool, especially for disadvantaged children, in helping pre-schoolers learn how to learn. Head Start supports working families by helping parents get involved in their children's educational lives. For this reason Miriam, the administration this year proposed investing an additional $1 billion in Head Start - the largest single funding increase ever proposed for the program - to provide Head Start and Early Head Start to approximately 950,000 children. This will help us reach the goal of serving at least 1 million children by 2002. Since 1993, the Clinton-Gore Administration has increased funding for Head Start by 90 percent.

I have also proposed making high-quality, voluntary preschool available to every 4-year-old child, and a growing number of 3-year olds in America. As your president, I would also help make high quality child care more affordable by making the existing child care tax credit refundable for families. By making the child care tax credit refundable, families with little or no tax liability could receive up to $2,400 to help offset the cost of child-care.

Finally, earlier this year I announced the administration's Early Childhood Educator Professional Development initiative, which would create professional development opportunities for early childhood educators who serve high concentrations of children living in poverty. Together, these programs promise a future filled with opportunity for all of America's children.

August 31, 2000

I am a music teacher in a poor district. Most classrooms have computers in them but not all of them. I do not have a computer in mine. We in the music department share one. What is going to be done about getting the funds in our schools to get a computer in all classrooms with access to the Internet?

Frank Yolango
Shirley, NY

Frank, I am a great fan of incorporating the latest technology in our schools so that today's students are prepared for tomorrow's challenges. As vice president, I have helped to increase investments in educational technology from $23 million in 1993 to nearly $700 million last year. In addition, I have led the Administration's effort to connect every classroom and library in the United States to the Internet by fighting for the passage of the discounted "e-rate" program, which makes access affordable for schools and libraries. In 1996, only 3 percent of classrooms were connected to the Internet when we launched the "e-rate" program. Currently, 63 percent of public school classrooms and 95 percent of schools are connected to the Internet. If elected President, I would:

  • finish connecting every classroom and library to the Internet during my first term;

  • make the best educational software available to every school; and

  • undertake a new national effort to provide basic skills in new technology, including a major initiative to achieve computer literacy for every child by the end of the 8th grade. I would accomplish this by expanding teacher training in use of the Internet in the classroom and deploying AmeriCorps National Service Corps members to teach and promote the Internet in schools, libraries and technology centers.

  • The high-tech economy has helped to produce unparalleled prosperity in America during the current administration. I believe that we must expand these opportunities by working to close the "digital divide," which separates those Americans with computers and the Internet from those without, so that all Americans are able to participate in the new digital economy.

    August 30, 2000

    What would you do to reduce tuition costs for students entering college?

    Tony Henry
    Chantilly, VA

    Tony, thank you for visiting my Web site and submitting your question. I have been a longtime advocate of making education more accessible for all Americans. I believe that making college affordable will help all Americans take advantage of the finest higher education system in the world and allow us to reach our fullest potential in the 21st Century. During the current administration, we fought successfully for the largest increased investment to expand access to higher education since the G.I. Bill. I am proud of the fact that we have helped to make the first two years of college affordable to every qualified young person with the HOPE Scholarships, and made further education more affordable through Lifelong Learning Tax Credits. We have increased Pell Grants by 52%, decreased interest rates on college loans, and taken steps to lower the cost of repaying student loans. In addition, as vice president I cast the deciding vote to create the Direct Student Loan Program, which has made student loans easier to access while saving taxpayers more than $4 billion. Moreover, we have provided direct support to community colleges to help them offer high-quality education and training to recent high school graduates as well as those seeking technical and scientific training.

    As president, I will build on these successful programs by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award and expanding the HOPE Scholarship program. However, I feel that we need to go further and create more opportunities for affordable higher education. That is why I have proposed a National Tuition Savings plan that would allow families to save for their children's college education inflation-free and tax-free. I support the president's budget proposal to make up to $10,000 worth of college tuition tax-deductible. I have also proposed life-long learning accounts that allow employers and individuals to put money away tax-free for qualified higher education expenses. These 401(j) accounts would let Americans save tax-free for job training, education and lifelong learning.

    October 5, 1999

    What is your position on "school vouchers"?

    Jared Strauss
    Durham, NC

    I have always been against school vouchers because they drain our public schools of funding for children who need it the most—those who can not afford to go to a private school. I am strongly committed to bringing truly revolutionary change to our public schools, closing the Education Gap, and saying "NO" to vouchers.

    We all must work together to make our public schools places of excellence and good character. As your president, I will make certain we have high-quality preschool available to every child in every community across America. I will provide grants to schools and communities so children can attend quality after school programs if their parents have to work, and I will lead a nationwide effort to encourage parental involvement in every school in America, including instruction in the use of modern technology to link together students, parents and teachers.& I will fight for smaller schools and smaller classes for all grades, because children learn better in a more individualized setting. Additionally, I will fight to expand access to higher education through "401-J" accounts and other programs to help students attend college.

    This kind of revolutionary change can not happen if we don’t support our schools at the federal level. This kind of change can only happen if we support our public schools—heart and soul. I always have and I always will. As your president, fighting for public schools that work for working families will be my number one priority for investing in the future.

    September 25, 1999

    I am a college student on full scholarship. However, not all students have this advantage. With the rising costs of higher education, what do you plan to do to ensure that America's youth in the next millennium have a greater opportunity to earn a college degree?

    Nicholas Bonarrigo
    Shirley, NY

    You’re right, Nicholas, the rising cost of higher education is keeping students from continuing their education, effectively creating what I call an Education Gap. So that is why as president, I will fight to improve educational opportunities for all Americans. Under my administration, higher education will be more affordable for students with the use of 401(j) savings accounts. Through these accounts, students will be able to save money for college—tax-free—for lifelong learning for themselves, their spouse or their child’s education. College will also be more accessible to students through a National Tuition Savings program where individual tax-free savings accounts can be established and be transferable for working families who move from state to state.

    As president, I will work hard to help students like yourself and those less fortunate than yourself to face the challenges head on as we approach the 21st century—where what you earn will increasingly be dependent on what you learn. And I am sure you mayfind that education will no longer be just a period in your life, it will become a way of life. I want my agenda to bring revolutionary change to our schools and improved resources to college-bound Americans. With your help Nicholas, my education agenda will help bridge the Education Gap for all of America’s working families.

    September 1, 1999

    Hi, I am staff writer for our high school newspaper in Crown Point, IN. I was assigned to write an article on the presidential elections. So, I thought it would be definitely be more exciting and personal if I could actually ask you a specific question. I understand, you must be a very busy man, but if you could please find time to answer me. I was wondering in what way your campaign is directed towards bettering education, especially in high schools?

    Asma Khalid
    Crown Point, IN

    Hello Asama, and thank you for taking the time to visit my campaign website. It might interest you to know that I began my own career as a journalist before entering elected office. To answer your question, my campaign is directed toward giving every young person like yourself access to world-class education that will give everyone the ability to reach for the American ideals.

    As your president, I want to make American high schools centers of excellence, fundamentally changing our public schools, increasing their effectiveness, and making them safe from guns and drugs. In a Gore administration, our public schools will be more individualized, training teachers in the use of new technology and matching learning to the pace and needs of each student. The size of our classes will continue to undergo a reduction, to the point of creating schools within schools, allowing teachers to further tailor their curriculum to individual needs and provide personal attention so needed by today's students.

    Students must learn 21st century skills in 21st century classrooms. I will fight for the building and modernizing of 6,000 schools nationwide, as proposed in our budget for the fiscal year 2000. And for your dedicated teachers, who never stop working to improve your learning experiences, I will fight to improve the profession of teaching, improve teacher quality and improve the training teachers receive.

    Students need a safe learning environment free of guns and drugs. As your president, I will insist on a policy of zero tolerance towards guns and drugs in our schools and double our nation’s commitment to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act over the next five years. I will continue my fight to keep our nation’s youth safe from violence in our schools and provide a safe environment that allows them to explore their ideas and pursue academic excellence.

    At the heart of my education agenda is a proposal that will ensure every student has the education they need for a new century. We must challenge every child in America to finish high school and go on to college. I will urge every state in the country to require students to stay in school until the age of eighteen, or until they graduate from high school, because each extra year of education students receive will lead to higher earnings by as much as 10 percent. I will work with states and school districts that agree to tackle this challenge with me to adopt proven strategies to keep students in school and make sure students graduate.

    Every high school student must be encouraged to continue their education and take advantage of the opportunity to attend college. I will support funding for programs that help young people prepare for success in college. And I will help schools assist disadvantaged high school graduates in new "Opportunity Academies," providing matching grants to support summer or yearlong programs for intensive pre-college studies.

    My campaign aims to revolutionize education as we know it, helping every young person reach his or her goals in life and succeed in the world. To make the most of your future, you must keep safe, stay in school, and succeed in school—all the way to graduation day. I want you to know that as your president, I will be there with you, helping you seize the opportunities to succeed in America.

    The impact of technology on education should be a significant one. What do you propose to do to ensure that all schools in all areas have access to technology?

    Howard
    Roslyn, NY

    August 10th, 1999

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about the importance of technology to education. It can dramatically improve the quality of education our children receive and open doors to new opportunities that might never become available. That's why I've worked and continue to work so hard to wire every classroom to the Internet. And we're making a difference—in the first 18 months of our efforts, we've helped connect 640,000 classrooms to the Internet—more than 80 percent of all the schools in America have been hooked up to the Internet. More than 53 percent of schools participating in this program were in the poorest neighborhoods.

    With your help, as President, I will continue working to help our children take full advantage of new technologies and to put those technologies to work for them. I'm proposing enhanced teacher training in technology, new educational software for all schools and I'd develop a carefully screened volunteer army of online tutors and mentors. Technology can make a difference for our children and our future.

    Why are you against school vouchers? They seem to be the best way to stimulate competition, which I believe would be very good for our schools. Does your stance have anything to do with the significant contributions you get from the teacher's unions?

    Wayne
    Huntington Beach, CA

    August 10th, 1999

    No, I am opposed to vouchers because the vast majority of our children attend public schools. And while I support public school choice, I want to strengthen our public schools, not drain away the funds with vouchers. Instead, we need revolutionary improvement in our schools—with pre-school for every child, smaller class sizes, higher standards and accountability, and more character education and discipline to pass on the right values.

    May 20, 1999

    I had the honor of being present at the Graceland College commencement ceremonies in Lamoni, Iowa. I am thrilled that education is a priority for you and am looking forward to working with you to improve our schools and our children's future. I will try to do all that I can to support your candidacy and wish you much success.

    Melanie Bendinsky
    Lavelle, PA

    Thanks for your support. We've seen many positive changes in our schools in recent years: higher standards; tougher curricula; signs of improved academic performance; greater accountability. In addition local officials are taking tough action to turn their schools around. However, we still have much work to do. We must fight to raise our education standards higher still; we must hold our schools accountable for real results; and we must end practices like social promotion the right way.

    I want to work with parents and teachers to bring about revolutionary change in the way we approach learning in this country. Education should start earlier, last longer, and extend through college and throughout our lifetimes. Education should teach basic skills, and also the good character and values we need for our families to be strong. Education should no longer be just a period in our lives, but a way of life in the 21st Century.

    To read the text of the commencement address at Graceland College, click here.


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