Clinton presses for OK of education plan; President challenges GOP in speech at Olney school


OLNEY -- President Clinton talked over the heads of his young audience yesterday to hammer home a message aimed at the adults who control the nation's purse strings.

"It is basic arithmetic," Clinton said at Brooke Grove Elementary School. "If we want the kind of America for our children that they deserve in the next century, we must invest more, not less, in education."

The president challenged the Republican-controlled Congress to defeat a $792 billion tax cut and instead approve his $25 billion plan to improve schools.

Clinton said Congress made a "down payment" last year when it approved hiring 30,000 new teachers nationwide to reduce class sizes. He called on Democrats and Republicans to use the surplus to continue education spending, bolster Social Security and Medicare and eliminate the national debt.

"We have the money," he said. "The question is what are we going to do with our prosperity."

Additional spending on education would pay for modernizing 6,000 schools, expanding Head Start, starting or improving after-school programs and hiring about 70,000 more teachers.

As Clinton turned up the heat on his opponents, the sun did likewise on squirming youngsters and their fanning parents seated on the blacktop behind the school.

The president announced that he would be releasing $33 million to pay for "teacher quality partnerships," for recruiting and training the next generation of teachers.

"You can't have a quality teacher unless you have a teacher in the first place," he said.

Clinton started his hourlong visit by reading to a first-grade class "about friendship, which I could use myself from time to time."

He ended by wading into the crowd of more than 500 to shake hands and salute the crowd.

Sara Harris, a member of the PTA executive board, called the president's message and the money spent to reduce class size "excellent."

Harris said smaller classes have led to improved reading scores at Brooke Grove.

"My daughter has gone from being an average reader to being off the charts in the matter of a year," she said of her fourth-grader. "The president is right on what we need to focus on."

Pub Date: 9/08/99

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