Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House
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REPUBLICAN RADIO ADDRESS
SPEAKER: ARNE CARLSON, GOVERNOR (R-MN)
CARLSON: Hi! I'm Arne Carlson, governor of Minnesota. As a nation over the last few years we've tackled many serious problems: the deficit, health care, welfare reform. Yet, despite our successes, it has become increasingly clear that one of the most serious problems in America today is the welfare of our children. Americans are alarmed, and rightly so, at the frightening rise in adolescent crime. We are alarmed at the rising levels of violence affecting our youth. And we are alarmed by the rising costs of building more and more prisons. These realities make it clear that the most important issue facing us today is education reform. In Minnesota we know that it costs approximately $40,000 a year to send a child to a juvenile incarceration facility. That's more than the tuition at any college in America. Wouldn't it make more sense to prevent the problem? Minnesota is a leader in many measures relating to K-12 education. We are always among the states with the highest graduation rates and highest test scores on college entrance exams. But even here in Minnesota, as in the nation, we have found that one-third of our children are failing basic skills in reading and math. Think about it. More than one in every three children is failing -- that's 14 million children in America. If this trend continues, we will be a second rate economic power with a declining quality of life. Are we prepared for that? We say that every child must succeed. That is why we in Minnesota last year introduced and ultimately, in a most difficult legislative session, won an historic education reform package for our state. We are now making decisions based on what is best for our children, not the educational bureaucracy. We started by raising our graduation standards so that expectations are high for all children and all teachers -- with no excuses. From there we implemented statewide testing at four checkpoints during a student's career in order to hold schools and students accountable. Next, we expanded choices for children and their families. Minnesota opened the first charter school in the country -- and now is home to 30 such mold-breaking schools. We want even more of these innovative and flexible schools, with better funding. We expanded Minnesota's educational tax deduction that families can use for tutoring, summer enrichment camps, private or parochial school tuition and other educational purposes. Yes, private or parochial tuition. We put money in the hands of parents by creating an education tax credit for lower-income families so that they too can access a world of opportunities for their children. Ours is a dollar-for-dollar refundable credit that families can use to help their children succeed in school. At the heart of all of our reforms is our belief that there must be competition in the system. Whether public, private, or parochial, every family in America should have the right to send their children to the school that best serves their child's needs. President Clinton and Vice President Gore sat down and made very thoughtful family decisions not to send their children to public schools in Washington, D.C. They chose private schools. And, I believe they have that right. But we want every child in America to have the same choice as Chelsea Clinton, regardless of family income. My parents were immigrants and they like hundreds of thousands of other immigrants came to America for opportunity, particularly for their children. And opportunity meant educational opportunity. And, it still does today. Now Republicans in Congress are seeking to provide opportunity scholarships for students in the District of Columbia. Our nation's capital spends more per student than any other school district in the nation and has some of the worst test scores to show for it. The Republican plan is a modest first step toward changing these failed outcomes. The Republican Congress will also take up legislation that allows parents to use IRA tax-free savings of up to $2,000 a year for K-12 education. Now, you may ask, what are Democrats so afraid of when it comes to choice, competition, and accountability in our schools? Democratic answers include a few more national tests, a few more summits and a truckload of tax dollars which will not solve the problem. Let's put the needs of children and parents first and give them the choices they need for success. Competition promotes quality and we believe our schools and our children need it.
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