[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 8, 1998]
[Pages 728-729]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation on Class-Size 
Reduction and Teacher Quality
May 8, 1998

To the Congress of the United States:
    I am pleased to transmit today for your immediate consideration and 
enactment the ``Class-Size Reduction and Teacher Quality Act of 1998.'' 
This legislative proposal would help States and local school districts 
recruit, train, and hire 100,000 additional well-prepared teachers in 
order to reduce the average class size to 18 in grades 1 through 3 in 
our Nation's public schools. It is an essential part of our overall 
effort to strengthen public schools throughout the Nation.
    As schools across the Nation struggle to accommodate a surge in 
enrollments, educators and parents have become increasingly concerned 
about the impact of class size on teaching and learning, particularly in 
the critically important early grades, where students learn reading and 
other basic skills. This concern is justified: rigorous research 
confirms what parents and teachers have long believed--that students in 
smaller classes, especially in the early grades, make greater 
educational gains and maintain those gains over time. These gains occur 
because teachers in small classes can provide students with more 
individualized attention, spend more time on instruction and less time 
on discipline, and cover more material effectively. Moreover, the 
benefits of smaller classes are greatest for poor, minority, and inner-
city children, the children who often face the greatest challenges in 
meeting high educational standards.
    Smaller classes will have the greatest impact on student learning if 
the new teachers brought into the classroom are well qualified to teach 
reading and to take advantage of smaller learning environments. For this 
reason, my proposal emphasizes not just class-size reduction but also 
professional development for educators, and it will give school 
districts adequate time to recruit and train staff while phasing in 
smaller classes. Furthermore, all new teachers hired under the program 
would be required to pass a State teacher competency test and would also 
have to be certified to teach or be making satisfactory progress toward 
full certification.
    We can help all of our students learn to read independently and well 
by the third grade, get a solid foundation in basic skills, and reach 
high educational standards if we start them off with small classes and 
well-prepared teachers in the early grades.
    Under my proposal, the Department of Education would provide $20.8 
billion in mandatory appropriations over a 10-year period (beginning 
with $1.1 billion in fiscal year 1999) to States. The States would then 
distribute the funds to local school districts based on their relative 
class sizes in grades 1 through 3, as well as on their ability and 
effort to finance class-size reductions with their own resources. The 
bill would provide States with considerable flexibility in distributing 
these funds, while ensuring that the most needy school districts receive 
a fair share.

[[Page 729]]

    Moreover, because my proposal would actually appropriate the funds 
needed to carry out the program, States and local communities could 
count on these funds without the need for separate congressional 
appropriations each year. This proposal is fully paid for within my 
Fiscal Year 1999 Budget, and therefore would not reduce the budget 
    School districts would use these funds to reduce class sizes in 
grades 1 through 3. Just as importantly, these funds would also be 
available for a variety of activities to ensure that students in the 
early grades receive sound and effective instruction, such as making 
sure that teachers know how to teach reading and other subjects 
effectively in small classes.
    This proposal includes strong accountability for results. 
Participating school districts would produce ``report cards'' 
documenting reductions in class sizes and the achievement of their 
students in reading, based on rigorous assessments. Schools whose 
students fail to make gains in reading would be required to undertake 
corrective actions. In addition, the Department of Education would 
undertake a comprehensive national evaluation of this program and its 
impact on reading achievement and teaching.
    I urge the Congress to take prompt and favorable action on this 
proposal. Its enactment would help school districts reduce class sizes 
in the early grades and improve instruction and achievement in reading, 
issues that are of major importance to parents and to the Nation.

                                                      William J. Clinton

The White House,

May 8, 1998.