[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 8, 1998]
[Pages 720-728]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Delaware State Legislature in Dover
May 8, 1998

    Thank you, Governor. I took good notes: No 
children on a child care waiting list; all poor 4-year-olds in Head 
Start; every classroom wired. I'll be saying that now every time I go to 
another city or another State; I'll be saying, if Delaware can do it, 
why can't you. And I thank you.
    I want to thank the Governor, and Senator 
Sharp, Speaker Spence, Lieutenant Governor Minner, 
the members of the legislature, the judiciary, the State officials who 
are here; former Governors Peterson and 
Tribbitt, and other distinguished 
citizens of this State; Mr. Mayor. I'm 
delighted to be joined today by the Secretary of Defense, who is going with me to Dover Air Base when we finish here 
to thank our air men and women there for their distinguished service, 
and who has also been a leader in education, because the Department of 
Defense runs schools all over the world for American children; by our 
wonderful Secretary of Education, Dick Riley; by Mickey Ibarra, the Director 
of our Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; and others. We are all 
delighted to be here.
    And I'd like to say a special word of appreciation to 
Congressman Castle for coming up here with 
me. He's an old friend of mine. We worked together on welfare reform 
more than a decade ago now. I have been trying to decide, when Mike and 
Tom changed jobs, which one really got the 
promotion. [Laughter]
    I am delighted to be the first President ever to speak here. The 
others did not know what they were missing. I love your capitol 
building. I like the feel of your legislature. I like the size of your 
legislature. [Laughter] I wonder if it would take a constitutional 
amendment to reduce Congress to this size. [Laughter] It's a wonderful 
    And I like the fact that the first State in the Nation is leading in 
doing the Nation's first business of educating our children. I've come 
here to talk about that work, why it is, in the States and in many 
communities around the country, and must be in Washington, the work of 
both Republicans and Democrats--why it must be a national crusade to 
give our children the world's best education.
    We have a history of putting nation above party when the Nation's 
security and future are at issue. We did it for 50 years, which is why 
the cold war turned out the way it did. The tradition was deeply honored 
by Secretary Cohen, who left a 
distinguished career in the United States Senate as a Republican Senator 
from Maine to join our administration, and he is performing well for the 
American people as Secretary of Defense.
    It is a tradition embodied by your Senators, Bill Roth and Joe Biden, who 
led the recent stunningly successful effort to expand NATO to include 
Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. And you should be very proud of 
both of them.
    And I have seen it, having had the opportunity to work for years now 
with Mike Castle and Tom Carper when they were in both jobs in succession, on welfare 
reform, on child care, on the education of our children. And you can be 
very proud of both of them.
    And Delaware, maybe because it's a small State and maybe because I 
came from a small State and was often ridiculed for it in national 
politics--my experience is that maybe because

[[Page 721]]

we're smaller, people learn to treat each other as people. They learn to 
listen to people on opposite sides of the aisle. They learn that they 
don't have all the answers and that everybody's got a valuable 
perspective and that in the end, we all have to get together and do 
something that moves our country or our State or our community forward. 
And for all of that, I am very grateful to the State of Delaware.
    Thomas Jefferson once said of your State that ``Delaware is like a 
diamond, small, but having within it inherent value.'' If he were today 
here giving this speech, he might say, being as he was a modern thinker, 
Delaware is like a silicon chip--[laughter]--small, but having within it 
enormous inherent value; namely, the power to shape the future.
    You have always looked to the future, from the time you did become 
the first State to ratify the Constitution. It was the beginning of many 
firsts: Delaware was the first State to produce a transatlantic iron 
steamship; then there was the first commercial telephone call between an 
airplane and a moving car, 100 years later--some of us would probably 
like it if telephone calls on airplanes and cars were not possible--
[laughter]--all the way to the remarkable innovations now being dreamed 
up in the DuPont labs.
    All of this is dramatically changing the world. The Chairman of the 
Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, came by the 
White House for one of our periodic meetings a few days ago, and we were 
talking about this incredible economy. And he said, you know, we really 
are living in an economy of ideas. He said there is a measure of a 
nation's output in wealth compared to its physical output, the literal 
physical density of all the goods that are produced. He said the measure 
is more skewed now than ever before; there is hardly any increase in the 
mass of what we're producing, but the wealth of what we're producing is 
exploding. Why? Because ideas are driving the increase in the wealth of 
the Nation.
    Today we learned that our unemployment rate has dropped to 4.3 
percent, the lowest since 1970. That is particularly impressive in light 
of the fact that inflation now is the lowest in more than 30 years; 
homeownership is at an all-time high; the welfare rolls are the lowest 
in 27 years; the crime rate is the lowest in 24 years.
    Our social fabric is mending. We saw that teen pregnancy had had a 
substantial drop for the second year in a row, something I know that the 
Governor has been passionately committed to. Our leadership in the world 
is still unrivaled, although we seem sometimes to be in some doubt about 
it here at home.
    In Delaware, your unemployment is all the way down to 3.4 percent. 
You've had tens of thousands of new jobs, twice the rate of new business 
growth as 5 years ago.
    The thing I would like to say about all this is, no one can claim 
full responsibility for it, there was not a totally coordinated 
strategy, but it did not happen by accident. America has been on the 
same page, from our strategy in Washington to balance the budget, invest 
in our people, and expand trade, to the entrepreneurs, to the scientists 
and technicians, to the teachers in our schools and the people who run 
our business and the folks who work in our factories. We have been on 
the same page. Good things don't happen by accident, even when 
millions--even hundreds of millions of people are responsible.
    And we must be on the same page when it comes to education. Before I 
get into what I want to say about education, I want to make a point I 
tried to make in the State of the Union. I've had a lot of people--
people who are primarily political people, good people but people who 
normally think about things in political terms--say to me, ``Well, you 
know, why don't you just relax and start playing golf three times a 
week? I mean, you've got low unemployment, low inflation; people are 
suspicious of Government; why don't--just don't do much and everybody 
will be happy.''
    There is an answer to that. And the answer is that that might be a 
decent prescription for a static time, but in a dynamic time where 
things are changing very rapidly, the fact that things are good in the 
moment does not guarantee they will be good 5 months or 5 years from 
now, because they're changing. So you have to keep working to stay ahead 
of the curve. And those of us in public life have to work no less than 
entrepreneurs do. If you go to Silicon Valley, you don't see anybody out 
there sort of laying down on the job just because the stock prices are 
high, because they know how dynamic the world is.
    And there is a second answer, which is that we still have some very 
profound challenges that, if left unmet, will come back to haunt

[[Page 722]]

us in the 21st century. What are they? I can only tell you what I think 
they are.
    I think, first of all, in Washington we have to reform our major 
programs of social cohesion, Social Security and Medicare, for the needs 
of the 21st century and for the reality that the baby boomers are going 
to retire, and when they do, there will only be about two people working 
for every one person drawing Social Security. The present systems are 
unsustainable as they are. We have to change them, consistent with our 
values and the real facts.
    Two, we have to prove that you can grow the economy without 
destroying the environment. And we have to convince people in developing 
countries that they can and to embrace new technologies to do that. Just 
a few days ago, I was out in California at a low-income/moderate-income 
housing development which is cutting by 40 percent the energy usage on 
low-income housing, using solar panels that are not now those big, heavy 
things you've seen on the roof but that look just like ordinary 
shingles, using windows that keep over half the heat in in the 
wintertime and over half the heat out in the summertime and still let 
more light in, and other basic things like that. We have to prove that 
we can make environmental preservation and economic growth go hand in 
    The third thing we've got to do is to bring the spark of enterprise 
to poor inner-city communities and rural communities, including Native 
American ones, that haven't felt it.
    The fourth thing we have to do is to prove that we can live together 
as one America in an increasingly diverse society.
    The fifth thing we have to do, I would argue, is to prove that we 
can lead the world after the cold war in a consistent, firm way toward 
peace and prosperity and freedom and democracy.
    But none of that will matter if we don't save our children. And 
that's what I want to talk about today--only one aspect of it, but in 
some ways the most important one. And Delaware, again, is leading the 
Nation. So I may be preaching to the choir, but that's not all bad. I'll 
polish the sermon and see if I do better in other places.
    The condition of education in America and the importance of it and 
the impact it's going to have on all our futures, as well as all our 
children, demands action from all of us, in Washington, in State 
capitals, in communities all across the country. Many of our greatest 
challenges don't fall under the authority of Washington, nor should 
they. I have supported giving States more authority in the area of 
welfare reform and in many other areas. Secretary Riley has cut by two-thirds the burden of regulations coming out 
of Federal education aid. We started two new programs, Goals 2000 and 
School-to-Work, without a single new Federal regulation.
    The Federal Government can't do all this. Some of our major 
challenges don't even fall primarily under State government, nor should 
they. The power and the responsibility of America to meet the challenges 
of the 21st century rests with all levels of government and with all 
sectors of society--sometimes more with the private sector; sometimes 
more with its most fundamental unit, the American family. And that is as 
it should be.
    But just because responsibility and power are dispersed doesn't mean 
that we don't all have to ask ourselves, what power do we have to have a 
positive impact? What is our responsibility? And then we have to move, 
because a revolution in education will not occur by accident any more 
than the revolution in the American economy has occurred by accident, 
even though there will be millions of people working on it and we may 
not all be calling each other on the phone every day.
    Yesterday I talked to mayors from all over the country; I received 
their report on what they think should be done. Their agenda is very 
much like yours and very much like mine.
    I suppose that I've spent more time on education than any other 
thing in my 20 years and more in public life now. Nearly 10 years ago, 
when I was a Governor of my State, I stayed up almost all night down at 
the University of Virginia at President Bush's Education Summit, working 
with Republican Governors to write goals for education for the year 
2000. It was clear then, it was clear way back in 1983 when the ``Nation 
At Risk'' report was issued, and it is certainly clear today that if we 
are going to prepare our children for the 21st century, we cannot hope 
to do it unless we can say with a straight face, ``We are giving them 
the best education in the world, not just a few of them but all of 
    And we can all say, ``Well, we can't be responsible for every 
teacher. We can't be responsible for every principal. We can't be 
responsible for every home. We can't be responsible for every

[[Page 723]]

unmotivated child.'' That's all true, but we can play the odds. 
Secretary Cohen runs, arguably, the most 
effective organization in the entire United States. Not every soldier, 
not every airman, not every marine, not every sailor is a stunning 
success, but they've got a pretty good system. And it didn't happen by 
accident. And we should take that as our responsibility.
    It seems to me the keys are high expectations, high standards, and 
high performance, fueled by more opportunity, more accountability, and 
more choice. Secretary Riley and I have 
worked at this for more than 5 years. In one area, we have been 
especially successful and widely supported across partisan lines and in 
States and local communities. We've opened the doors to higher education 
wider than ever before.
    The Balanced Budget Act I signed last year represented the greatest 
expansion of college opportunity since the GI bill was passed 50 years 
ago, with college tuition tax credits, including the $1500-a-year HOPE 
scholarship for the first 2 years of college, education IRA's, expanded 
Pell grants, deductibility of interest on student loans, 300,000 more 
work-study slots, another 100,000 young people earning education credits 
by serving in the national service program, AmeriCorps, and lifetime 
learning credits for adults who have to go back to school.
    All of these things together mean that any American who is willing 
to study and work hard can get an education in college, and that is very 
important. It will change the face and the future of America. We learned 
in the 1990 census that Americans--younger American workers who were 
high school dropouts, high school graduates, or who had less than 2 
years of post-high-school education were likely to get jobs where their 
incomes went down over time, compared to inflation. Those that had at 
least 2 years of post-high-school training were likely to get and keep 
jobs where their incomes went up. So that was fundamentally important, 
and we can all be proud of it. And many States have done more to try to 
give scholarships and make college more affordable, and that's 
    The Senate just this week--and I want to compliment them--passed 91 
to 7 what I have called the ``GI bill'' for workers. It basically 
consolidates this incredible tangle of Federal training programs into a 
skills grant, so that if a person is unemployed or underemployed and 
eligible, you just get basically the skills grant and then you decide 
where to take it. Since nearly every American lives within driving 
distance of a community college or some other very efficient 
institution, we no longer need the Federal Government micromanaging the 
definition of all these training programs, and we don't need anybody in 
the way of it.
    Now, we have some provision, particularly that the Governors wanted 
who live in rural areas--who have lots of people in rural areas that may 
not have readily available services, but this is very important. And 
we've got to resolve the differences now in the House and the Senate 
bill and pass it. This is a huge thing. And the Congress can be proud of 
it, and the country can be proud of it.
    But with all that said and done, I don't think there is a person 
here who would dispute the following two statements: We have the best 
system of higher education in the world; we do not have the best system 
of elementary and secondary education in the world. You don't have to 
criticize your favorite teacher. You can honor the PTA leaders and the 
school board members. No one believes it's the best in the world. And 
until it is, we can't rest. That is the bottom line.
    The budget that I have presented, which is a balanced budget, has 
the biggest commitment in history from the Federal Government to K-
through-12 education. But we all know that's less than 10 percent of the 
total. Still, I think it's important that the National Government focus 
on results, because things don't happen by accident. I think we should 
focus on high standards, real accountability, more choice, and finally 
I'd like to say a word about safe schools, because that is a problem in 
some parts of our country.
    First, there's no substitute for standards. I want to compliment 
Delaware for what you're doing. This week, 3d, 5th, 8th, and 10th 
graders all over the State are participating in your new assessment 
process to see how well they're doing in reading, writing, and math. And 
you're going to add other subjects, the Governor told me, in the next 
couple of years. You also have done something that may give us a key to 
how to solve the national issue, which is that about a quarter of your 
exam questions are apparently taken from the National Assessment of 
Education Progress, which is a national test most States participate in, 
but by definition it's only given to a representative sample of 

[[Page 724]]

not all students. I compliment you on that. I think that is a brilliant 
    And I think it's important that we find a way to have national 
standards and exams at least in the basics. It is very important. 
Secretary Riley and I were talking on the 
way out; he was talking about South Carolina still having quite an old 
State test. We had some old State tests when I was Governor of Arkansas. 
Our kids just knocked the top off of them, the same test we'd been 
giving for years. And then when we took a national test that was 
current, we didn't do so well. So without in any way undermining local 
control of the schools or the constitutional responsibility of the 
States for education, we need to have a set of national standards and an 
accountability system which tells us all honestly how we're doing.
    We're working hard now with an independent nonpartisan board--the 
acronym known to all the education experts in the audience is the NAGB 
Board. We've got Republicans and Democrats on the board and people I 
don't even have any idea what their political affiliation is, all of 
whom are simply committed to educational excellence. And we want to find 
ways to coordinate with the States and the State tests to avoid 
unnecessary costs and burdens. You may have found a way to do it in 
Delaware, by having a test that is both rooted in your State standards 
and encompassing national questions. But it's a very good start.
    The second thing we have to do--and I understand the Governor said 
you were debating that--that may be tougher is figure out what the 
accountability system is. Now, a lot of these questions should 
definitely be decided by people at the State and the local level. But 
let me, first of all, say that no test is worth a flip unless there is 
some consequences, not just negative ones but positive, not just what 
you do to the students but what the rest of us have to do for the 
education system based on the consequences of the test.
    We have to start by demanding accountability from the students, and 
I strongly believe that we should end the practice of so-called social 
promotion everywhere in the country. For many years there was a current 
theory in America that, well, it hurt a child's self-esteem too much to 
be held back and the child could maybe pick it up next year. And besides 
that, children do learn at different paces. That is absolutely true, 
especially in the early years, the dramatically different learning 
patterns of children in the early years.
    Then sooner or later, somehow, parents figured out that one reason 
kids dropped out of school in the 9th or 10th grade is because the 
material was going over their heads. It didn't mean anything to them, so 
why should they sit around, because they weren't able to do the work. 
And then even the kids figured out that being 20 years old and not being 
able to fill out an employment application and not being able to even 
read your high school diploma was far more destructive of self-esteem 
than spending another year in some grade along the way.
    Then, school districts began to figure out that they didn't 
necessarily have to hold people back if they had proper after-school 
help and a little help in the summer, where a lot of kids having 
learning problems forget huge chunks of what they learned the year 
    So we're now kind of coming to grips with this. I have often talked 
about the Chicago system; it probably had the most widely condemned 
school system in the country because they had a strike every year 
whether they needed it or not, for one thing, and because they weren't 
producing results. Now, the Chicago summer school system--they've ended 
social promotion. You have to go to summer school if you fail the test 
and you want to go on to the next grade. Their summer school is the 
fifth biggest school district in America--the summer school. They have 
thousands of children going to school after school so many hours that 
thousands of them actually take three hot meals a day in the schools, in 
an inner-city environment where they're safe, they're not getting in 
trouble, and nobody's hurting them.
    Now, if a place that has those kinds of challenges can take them on, 
every place in America can take them on. I've asked Congress to pass 
what we call education opportunity zone legislation, that will basically 
give extra resources to schools in poor communities if they will insist 
on high standards in social promotion, demand performance from students 
and teachers, and actually support the kids that are in trouble and give 
them the extra help they need. I hope Congress will pass it.
    Again, I say, in many ways we're following your lead. And I urge you 
to have a big vigorous debate on this--what are the consequences of this 
exam. And I wouldn't presume to tell you what to do, but I can make two 

[[Page 725]]

based on 20 years of working, and hours and hours and hours spent in 
classrooms listening to teachers and watching things unfold.
    One is, nobody will take your system seriously unless there are 
consequences. Two is, if there are consequences, whatever you decide 
they are, they cannot be exclusively negative ones; they must also be 
positive, because you have to believe that--in order to believe in 
democracy, you have to believe that almost everybody can learn almost 
everything they need to know to make this country run right, which means 
almost everybody in the world can succeed in school. And if they're not, 
it's probably not entirely their fault. So there should be consequences; 
some of them should be negative. But there must be positive ones as 
well. And I wish you well, and I can assure you the rest of us are going 
to be watching.
    The next thing I think we have to do is to develop and demand 
accountability and performance from teachers but also support them. I 
had the great pleasure this week--or last week--of hosting the Teachers 
of the Year at the White House. And that's one of the happiest days of 
the year. You'll never find 50 more upbeat people than the teachers that 
are selected Teachers of the Year. And you talk to these people, and you 
can't imagine that there's ever been a problem in American education.
    The man who was named National Teacher of the Year is a teacher from Virginia who teaches history and 
social studies and who makes his kids role-play. So they play ancient 
Athenians and Spartans debating the Greek wars. They play Jefferson and 
Adams debating each other about fundamental questions of what the real 
notion of the Union that we all belong to is. I mean, it was 
    Those are the kind of teachers that we wish all our children had all 
the time. And I think we need to do more to reward teachers who strive 
for excellence. One of the things that we can do at the national level 
that I hope you will support, that Tom and Mike's former colleague 
Governor Jim Hunt has worked his whole 
career on, is to support the master teacher program, the National Board 
for Professional Teacher Certification. It's a completely voluntary 
thing which qualifies teachers based on, number one, their complete 
academic preparation for the course they're teaching, and number two, 
their success in teaching, and thirdly, I might add, their ability to 
help other teachers improve their teaching skills.
    Now, today there are only a few hundred master teachers in America. 
My balanced budget contains enough funds to certify 100,000 master 
teachers. When we get one of these teachers in every school building in 
America--every school building in America--going to the teachers' 
lounge, going to the faculty meetings, talking to the principals, it 
will change the culture of education in America. Every other profession 
in the country, just about, has national board certification. And 
believe me, this is a good thing that is a worthy investment.
    Finally, let me say, I believe that if teachers don't measure up 
after getting all the support and help they need, there ought to be a 
swift process, fair but swift--it should not be endless--to resolve the 
matter in a satisfactory way. Because you're not doing anybody any 
favors--no one--fundamentally, nobody is happy doing something they're 
not good at. You can never make me believe anybody is really happy when 
they know deep down inside they're not doing the job. So there has to be 
some system that is perfectly fair to every teacher but doesn't take 
from now to kingdom come to resolve the matter in a way that allows the 
education system to go forward.
    Now, I also think as we demand responsibility for results from the 
schools, we have to give the tools they need to the students and the 
teachers. I've said that, and I will say it again. Let me just mention 
one or two things. First, smaller class sizes. Children in some classes 
in America are in classes that are so big and crowded, there is no way 
any teacher--I don't care how good he or she is--can deal with all the 
challenges that are presented, where classes are so big where the 
students are barely known by name to the teacher, much less the 
particular circumstances of their lives. Given the fact that so many 
kids have so many troubles today, it's very, very important. In 
classrooms like this, teachers are often forced to teach to the middle, 
leaving both the best kids and the most troubled kids behind.
    The Department of Education and Secretary Riley today are releasing a report on class size and learning, 
basically reaffirming what Hillary and I have long believed. We adopted 
very rigorous class sizes for our State 15 years ago. When class sizes 
go down enough, learning goes up--that's what the report shows--
especially in

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the early years. And when children come from disadvantaged backgrounds, 
small classes can make an even greater difference.
    Let me just give you a few examples from the study. In Tennessee, 
test scores were consistently higher among students that were in classes 
of fewer than 20 students. These children kept the edge even when they 
moved into larger classes in their later years of schooling. From 
Wisconsin, North Carolina, and classrooms across the country, other 
studies confirm the same findings.
    Governor Carper and many of you here today 
are trying to reduce class size. I just want to encourage you and tell 
you that I have presented to the Congress a plan to do the same thing, 
which would not in any way conflict with what you're doing, but will 
enable you to get some funds to support it.
    Today I'm sending legislation to Congress cosponsored by 
Senators Murray and Kennedy and Congressman Clay that 
will make class size reduction a national goal and, if enacted, would 
help school districts to hire another 100,000 teachers, which is about 
the number necessary, properly distributed across the country, to give 
us average class size of 18 in the first 3 grades. It would also require 
the new teachers to pass competency exams to make sure they have the 
training and preparation they need. Many States now require this anyway.
    The second thing I'd like to say is, Delaware may be the only State 
now where every classroom is wired, but every classroom should be wired. 
You remember, I'm sure, a few years ago, the Vice President and I went to San Francisco and got with a lot of 
people from the big computer companies and said that we wanted to try to 
wire every classroom and library by the year 2000. And we are making 
great headway. We've got more than twice as many classrooms and 
libraries wired today as we did just 3\1/2\ years ago when we did that. 
We have in the budget now funds to continue this urgent national 
priority. I hope that will pass.
    But finally, let me say, believe it or not, we've got--an enormous 
percentage of the school buildings in this country are ill-equipped to 
take the wiring because they're so old. We have cities in this country 
with average school buildings--average school buildings--over 65 years 
old and in terrible shape. I was in a small, growing district in Florida 
the other day where there were not 1, not 5 but 17 trailers outside the 
main school building there for the kids.
    Now, when you come to work here every day in this capitol, it makes 
you feel good, doesn't it? It's a beautiful building, and you've 
obviously put a lot of funds into restoring it. And it makes you feel 
good; it says you're important. It matters to be a member of the 
Delaware Legislature. One of the ways you know without anybody telling 
you is, you come into this nice building. And it's important. And if 
grownups are affected by their surroundings, children are even more so.
    What does it say to an inner-city kid from a poor family if they go 
to a school building every day and one of the whole floors is closed for 
want of repair? What does it say about how important those children are 
if every day they walk through the front door and they look up and see 
three or four broken windows? What does it say if the blackboard is only 
half there because it's been cracked? What about the kids in the crowded 
school districts? You know, the first year or two, if you show up and 
there are a lot of housetrailers, it's kind of exciting because it means 
you've got a growing district and a lot of stuff going on. After 5 or 6 
years, it means things aren't getting better. It's a very different 
message. And the important thing is not whether the buildings are old or 
not, it is whether they are safe, clean, light, whether they send the 
message that this is a place where learning can occur and this is a 
place where children are important.
    Now, I think education is a part of the national infrastructure. 
That's why I wanted the Federal Government to help places who need it 
wire all the classrooms and libraries. And I have proposed for the first 
time that we help with the infrastructure needs of school districts--
again, not in any way that would conflict with what any State or local 
school district is doing but, instead, to reinforce it.
    This budget contains funds that would help us to modernize 5,000 
schools and build 1,000 new ones. It would be a very good start on the 
incredible infrastructure needs of America's schools. And for people who 
say it doesn't matter, just think how you feel when you come through 
these doors every day. It does matter, and I hope we can pass it.
    The third thing I'd like to emphasize very briefly is that we need 
greater choice in our schools. We do need more competition. You

[[Page 727]]

mentioned the Charter School of Wilmington, Governor, and other charter 
schools in your State. When I was elected President in 1992, there was 
only one charter school in the entire country, public schools that 
tailor their programs to meet the needs and demands of their customers, 
the students and their parents. Since then, I've done everything I could 
to support them.
    Today, there are 800 charter schools; 32 of our 50 States authorize 
them. Just last week in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, California 
voted in the legislature to create another 100 charter schools a year in 
our largest State. That's great, great news--100 a year. They had a 150 
cap, I think, on the whole State. They blew off the cap and said, ``This 
is working''--and I've been in some of them out there, they are 
working--``We want 100 a year.''
    Now, my goal is to have 3,000 by the year 2000 in the whole country, 
and I have presented a budget to Congress which would give communities 
around the country any start-up funds they need to do this. It's not so 
easy to do if you've never thought about it and never done the work and 
if you come from a place with limited resources. So I did present some 
money in the budget to do that. But I hope you will support that.
    Delaware has been at the forefront of the charter school movement. 
It is a good, good thing to do, along with having statewide public 
school choice plans. And I applaud you for yours.
    The fourth thing I'd like to talk just a little about is school 
safety. You know, it's pretty hard to learn if you feel insecure. One of 
the main reasons that I supported the school uniform movement, not as a 
mandatory thing but where people needed it, was that I thought it would 
make our schools safer. And I've been around the country and seen a lot 
of schools that had terrible discipline problems. And we're worried 
about the safety of the kids going to and from school. And in every case 
where they had a terrible problem and adopted a uniform policy, it made 
a big difference. We want to do more to ensure our children's safety. We 
want to make sure that our children are exposed to teachers and team 
leaders, not drug dealers and gang leaders.
    There are a lot of things we can do. Let me just mention one thing. 
We are trying in this budget to give States and communities more funds 
to support even wider and more extensive after-school programs, not only 
because they're important educationally--which they are, and that's 
their primary mission--but because almost all kids get in trouble after 
school lets out and before the folks get home from work. A huge 
percentage of juvenile crime is committed between 3 and 6 or 7 at night. 
And if we can have extensive after-school programs, we can make our 
children safer and our schools safer. Let me also--even one hand is good 
on that. [Laughter]
    Today the Department of Education is releasing a report which also 
shows we're doing a better job as a country in detecting guns in the 
schools. That's really good--that's the good news. The bad news is there 
are a lot of guns in the schools and other weapons. In 1997 more than 
6,000 students were expelled for bringing firearms to school. But I 
think that means we must continue and bear down on this policy of zero 
tolerance for guns in our schools.
    And again, it works to prevent problems. The superintendent of the 
Alexandria, Virginia, schools--which, by the way, is now the most 
diverse school district in America; Fairfax County has kids from 180 
different racial and ethnic groups, speaking over 100 native languages. 
But because they have a rigorous zero tolerance program, they have cut 
suspendable offenses over the past couple of years by more than 40 
percent. It works. And we can have those results all over the country.
    But let me say, going back to an issue you're debating, 
Secretary Riley asked all these school 
security experts what they thought we could do as a people, not just the 
Federal Government, to make the schools safer. And they said, 
interestingly enough, one of the most important things we could do is to 
create the smallest possible classes in the early grades, because the 
kids with problems would be found by the teachers. And then the teachers 
and the families and the counselors could work together to try to 
prevent these kids from getting in trouble in the first place. I thought 
it was a stunning thing, amazing.
    So Delaware is leading the Nation, and the Nation must follow. And 
we must, Republicans and Democrats together, all Americans, make a 
commitment to a revolution in standards and accountability, in choice 
and safety, based on high expectations, accountability, and performance. 
It will take all of our commitment to do

[[Page 728]]

the job, but the challenge must be met because America can't become what 
it ought to be if we don't.
    We can do this. This is not rocket science. This is an affair of the 
mind which most of us can comprehend. Fundamentally, it is also an 
affair of the heart. We know--we know--that the best days of this 
country are still ahead. You may be the oldest State, but you still want 
to have the longest future. And the only way we can do it is with this.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:50 p.m. in the Senate Chamber. In his 
remarks, he referred to Gov. Tom Carper and Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner of 
Delaware; President Pro Tempore Thomas B. Sharp, Delaware State Senate; 
Speaker Terry R. Spence, Delaware State House of Representatives; 
Russell W. Peterson and Sherman W. Tribbitt, former Delaware Governors; 
Mayor James L. Hutchinson of Dover; Philip Bigler, 1998 National Teacher 
of the Year; and Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr., of North Carolina.