[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 12, 1998]
[Pages 2018-2021]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing Grants for After-School Programs
November 12, 1998

    The President. Thank you very much, Rose, for giving us a wonderful 
example of what these endeavors are all about. Hillary and I are 
delighted to have all of you--parents, administrators and teachers, 
child care advocates, grant recipients--here in the White House today. 
We especially thank Congressman Castle, Congresswoman Lowey, Senator 
Robb, Senator Specter, Congressmen Hoyer and Cardin and King and Levin 
and Quinn.
    I thank Olivia Golden, our HHS Administrator for Children and 
Families, for being here,

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along with Mike Smith and Kent McGuire from the Education Department. We 
welcome Mayor Davis, Mayor Ganim, Mayor Schundler, and all of you.
    I have enjoyed this day very much already because Hillary and I are, 
I think it's fair to say, virtually obsessed with the idea of expanding 
after-school programs and affordable child care. And to see this 
reaching across party lines to support our children, our families, and 
our communities is a deeply moving thing to me. But I'd like to begin my 
remarks, since I essentially can't add much to what has already been 
said--I want to ask you to think about a question that we have--all of 
us who are parents, at least, who have ever taken our children on trips 
when they were young--have heard them say, ``Are we there yet? Are we 
there yet?'' [Laughter]
    So in spite of what we come to celebrate today, the truth is that 
when it comes to raising our children in this new era, we are not there 
yet. But when I look at the people on this podium and the faces out in 
this crowd, I realize that this is clearly an area where we can put the 
progress of our people ahead of our partisan differences and that, if we 
continue to do that, we might be able to give a different answer to our 
    Even though our economy is the strongest in a generation, all of you 
know that one of the principal struggles faced by real people out there 
in America was the one that Rose Bolz told us about today. Even with the 
lowest unemployment rate in 28 years, even with the fastest rising wage 
rates in over 20 years, how are people doing at balancing the work of 
parenting and the work of working? How do people fulfill their 
obligation to their children and to their workplace?
    Well, first of all, it's not easy. In spite of the program that the 
First Lady described, in spite of the marvelous experience that Rose, as 
a parent, with her child have had, on any given day in America as many 
as 15 million school-age children are left to fend for themselves on the 
streets or alone at home. Half of all juvenile crime occurs in the few 
hours just after school lets out. And for families with children between 
the ages of 3 and 5, child care is the second or third greatest 
household expense.
    Now, obviously, only parents can find the proper balance between 
work and child rearing, one that works for them or one that is imposed 
on them by their economic circumstances. What we have to do is to help 
them do the very best they can to meet their obligations at home and at 
work. That is the only responsible thing to do on the verge of this new 
century when the patterns of work and life are so very different.
    As I have said many times, if you will indulge me I'd like to say 
once more, I know that all life is filled with choices and some of them 
are bound to be hard, but this is a choice we should not require our 
people to make, because if they have to choose, they lose, and we lose. 
If a person cannot function at work for worrying about the children at 
home, but economically they must work, then that weakens the fabric of 
the American economy. If in order to fulfill one's responsibility at 
work a parent has to neglect children, that is an even higher price, 
because in every society that is always the most important work that can 
be done.
    That is why we have worked hard to help people reconcile these two 
obligations with the family and medical leave law, with policies 
designed to promote the idea that if people who work full-time and have 
children in the home should not be in poverty, the doubling of the 
earned-income tax credit, the $500-per-child tax credit that was a part 
of the bipartisan balanced budget bill passed last year, the raise in 
the minimum wage, the dramatic increase in tax credits and scholarships 
and loan program options for college education, the welfare reform that 
I believe did a great deal. Mike Castle and I were talking about this, 
because we've been working on this subject for more than 10 years 
together now, and we believe it makes a very good start at striking the 
proper balance between work and family, protecting the health care and 
the nutrition of children as a national guarantee, providing many more 
resources for child care and for transportation, giving States the 
flexibility to design programs that are more likely to move people more 
quickly from welfare to work without sacrificing their parental 
responsibilities. And since we have the smallest percentage of our 
people on welfare in 29 years, I'd say we're off to a pretty good start.
    Now, since those initiatives, we have focused on two other major 
priorities: first, the after-school programs; and second, child care for 
lower income working families who may not

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have been on welfare and therefore are not eligible for the funds that 
were provided in welfare reform.
    Last month, the bipartisan balanced budget bill, to which Senator 
Specter and others have referred, expanded Head Start and made new 
investments in improving the quality of child care. Thanks to that bill, 
and especially to the extra child care put in under the welfare reform 
law, I can tell you that there are nearly one and a quarter million low 
income children now receiving child care under the child care block 
grant program. That is up from one million the year before. That's a 25 
percent increase in one year. And to all these Members of Congress who 
are here who supported this across party lines, I want to say a special 
thank-you for doing that.
    Now, that is the good news. But if a child asks you, ``Are we there 
yet?'' here is the rest of the story. We've gone from a million to one 
and a quarter million in one year, a 25 percent increase; by income, 
under the law, another 8.75 million children in low income working 
families are eligible for child care assistance, but cannot receive it 
because we have not put sufficient funds into the program.
    So this should continue to be a priority in the next Congress. Even 
though we were successful--and I appreciate what Senator Specter said 
about the nature of the budget process--Congress was very generous in 
the end in investing more money in education, we did not pass the child 
care proposal. I hope we can do better next time because of the large 
number of people out there.
    Now I'd like to say just a little word about the after-school 
programs because I, too, think they're so important. The budget I signed 
last month included a fivefold increase in the number of children who 
will receive after-school programs. This program, this increase, was 
funded under the 21st century community learning center initiative 
initially sponsored by Senator Jeffords of Vermont. It was strongly 
supported by Senator Boxer, Senator Kennedy, Congresswoman Lowey, and 
    I want to tell you how fast and how far Congress has moved on this 
after-school program, again in a bipartisan fashion. In 1996 there was 
$1 million in this program. In 1997 there was $40 million in the 
program. In 1998, in this Congress--thank you, Mr. Appropriator--there 
was $200 million in the program. That's why 183 communities in 44 States 
and the District of Columbia today can receive $60 million to set up 
these academically enriched after-school programs. Roughly 75,000 more 
children will now have someplace to go other than the streets when 
school lets out. That's good news for America.
    One of these recipients is Chicago's Lighthouse program, which the 
First Lady and I have both visited. Every day Lighthouse--listen to 
this--keeps 112,000 children in 248 Chicago schools off the street and 
out of trouble, while drilling them in math and reading, providing 
everything from computer instruction to supervised sports to a hot 
evening meal. Over 40,000 children in that school system now get 3 meals 
a day.
    After-school programs like this honor our values and benefit our 
Nation. They offer opportunity and peace of mind to hard-working parents 
who can't always be at home when school lets out. They bolster 
responsibility and academic achievement among students. Math and reading 
scores have shot up in nearly every one of the 40 Chicago schools where 
the program began 2 years ago.
    And I might add, parenthetically--I'll plug something I believe in--
I am all for the proposition that in our most troubled inner-city 
schools we must raise academic standards, raise learning levels, and end 
social promotion, but it is wrong to brand a child a failure when the 
system has failed the child. So there have to be after-school programs 
and summer school programs. So Chicago has ended social promotion. But 
they've got 112,000 kids in after-school programs, and the summer school 
program is now the sixth largest school district in America.
    So if we want our children to do well and if we believe our children 
can do well across racial and income lines, no matter where they were 
born, where they grow up--whether they're on the most distant rural 
Native American tribal reservation or in an absolutely abandoned inner-
city neighborhood--and if we want to say, ``Look, because we love you 
we're going to hold you to high standards,'' then we have to give them 
the tools they need to succeed.
    So this is a terribly important thing to the strengthening of our 
community, to reducing juvenile crime, to doing the things that we all 
know we ought to do. Just think, in this huge budget of over $1.5 
trillion, what started with

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$1 million, then went to $40 million, then went to $200 million, has the 
potential to have a bigger impact on more children's lives, more 
families, and more communities' futures than virtually anything else 
we're doing around here--because it empowers people, like the people who 
work with Rose Bolz' daughter, to do more of that daily.
    Now, again, are we there yet? When it comes to the end of the 
speech, the answer is ``nearly.'' [Laughter] But back to the subject--
are we there yet?
    Audience members. No-o-o!
    The President. A hundred and eighty-three new after-school grants, 
that's the good news. The rest of the news is, for every community that 
received a grant today, there were seven more which applied. Actually, 
that's also good news if you think about it. Everybody gets this now. 
But because they get it, we have to try harder. Like child care, the 
need for after-school programs simply outstrips our investment.
    So when children ask from the back of the car, ``Are we there yet?'' 
it's always hard to give them a satisfactory answer. And how many of us 
as parents have explained how far we've come and that we've come further 
than we've still got to go--all the answers that satisfy adults and 
never make it with kids. [Laughter]
    On these issues, we should be as impatient as our children in the 
back seat of the car. We should be proud of what has been done. We 
should lift up the teachers, the community leaders, the parents, the 
child care workers who have done the right thing. But we should remember 
the impatience of our children. In the new economy, we can no longer 
think of high-quality child care and after-school programs as luxury 
items. In every period of economic and social change, what once was a 
luxury item becomes quickly standard equipment.
    So are we there yet? No. But we'll get there together. Thank you 
very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:54 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks he referred to Rose Bolz, single working mother 
from Tucson, AZ, who introduced the President; Kent McGuire, Assistant 
Secretary, and Marshall S. Smith, Deputy Secretary, Department of 
Education; Mayor Ernest D. Davis of Mount Vernon, NY; Mayor Joseph P. 
Ganim of Bridgeport, CT; and Mayor Bret Schundler of Jersey City, NJ. A 
portion of these remarks could not be verified because the tape was