Clinton Calls For Better Schools

Improving America's schools should be "a national priority," President Clinton said Saturday, dismissing criticism that education strictly is a local matter.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Clinton urged Congress to embrace his proposals to reduce class size, modernize school buildings, improve teacher quality, and make schools accountable for results. Mr. Clinton said his proposals were based "on proven experience. They're common sense. We have to make them common practice in every school district in America."

Democrats and Republicans alike have seized on education as a top political priority but they differ in their approach. A House Republican bill aims to give local schools and states more control and flexibility.

Acknowledging differences, Mr. Clinton said, "Now, some in Congress believe the national government has no business helping communities to improve their schools."

"But I think strengthening education is a national priority," he said.

Mr. Clinton is calling on schools to provide report cards on their own performance to parents, end social promotion, invest more in summer and after-school programs, and adopt and enforce disciplinary codes.

He also wants local school districts to fix or close underperforming schools and ensure that teachers are qualified in the subject matters they teach.

Mr. Clinton strived to cast his proposals as grassroots-based and not instructions trickling down from the capital.

"As both a former governor and a parent, I know the greatest innovations in education do not start in Washington," he said. "They start in local schools and school districts, in community councils and parent-teacher groups."

With the nation's governors gathering in Washington this weekend, he noted that Delaware is already putting an end to social promotion, Pennsylvania is improving school safety, and North Carolina has been working to improve teacher quality.

"As I have said many times, every problem in education in America has been solved somewhere, by somebody, in America," Mr. Clinton said. "The trick is helping more communities to put those proven solutions to work in their own public schools. I believe the national government has an obligation to help them do that."