Clinton, GOP Bemoan Low U.S. Test Scores
Both sides offer different solutions to problem
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AllPolitics, Feb. 28) -- Both President Clinton and the GOP used their weekly radio air time Saturday to lament test results showing that American students lag behind those of other industrialized nations in math and science.
In his public address, Clinton urged Senate passage of legislation that would provide $210 million for the improvement of children's literacy. The bill would make local grants available for reading improvement and tutoring.
"We need it. Our children need it," Clinton said.
But a Republican spokesman in his radio remarks countered that federal "one-size-fits-all prescriptions" for beefing up the nation's educational system won't work.
"We need to turn back the authority and the dollars to the local level. We need to get dollars to the classroom," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa, a former math and science teacher.
Study: Students behind in math, science
Clinton -- in Salt Lake City on a family skiing vacation -- and Pitts each referred to last week's release of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, in which U.S. students scored lower in math than students in 14 other countries and lower in science than students in 11 other countries.
Clinton also noted that 40 percent of U.S. children under 8 can't read at a basic level.
"It tells me we can have no higher priority than to transform our K-12 classrooms in every community," Clinton said.
"We need smaller classes, better teaching, higher standards, more discipline, greater accountability. And clearly, we must give our children more help with reading."
The president also called on American parents to join a renewed emphasis on learning on Monday by participating in the first national "Read America Day," during which they would make a special effort to read out loud to their children and grandchildren.
The day is sponsored by the National Education Association to honor Dr. Seuss, the late children's author. Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodore Geisel, would have been 94 on Monday.
Pitts, meanwhile, said the way to improve education is to give state governments more control over education spending.
He said President Clinton's proposal to deal with the rankings would create a bigger role for the Washington bureaucracy and less control for local schools and parents.
"Amazingly today, only 65 percent of the dollars Washington spends on education actually reach the classroom. The rest of it, unfortunately, is eaten up by a hungry bureaucracy in Washington, before it gets to the states," said Pitts.
He said the Dollars to the Classroom Act he introduced in Congress would reroute education spending.
"We intend to block-grant the funds for many secondary and elementary programs and send them directly to the governors of our 50 states," Pitts said.
He said this would require updated software, more teachers, teachers aides and computers and an increases in merit pay.