Clinton Must Now Achieve Education Goals
The president elect - who helped shape the nation's education agenda - is expected to focus on five areas for improvement
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"Some language will be added to the legislation to encourage schools to be somewhat more innovative," says Denis Doyle, an education specialist at the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis.Skip to next paragraph
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* Improving school-to-work transitions. The greatest infusion of new federal funds is expected to go toward helping the "forgotten half" - high school students who do not attend college - enter the skilled work force. Clinton is considering a proposal to create 300,000 youth apprenticeships that would combine work training with the last two years of high school and two years at a community or technical college. The program has an estimated price tag of $1 billion over the next four years.
* Replacing the federal student-loan program with a national service plan. Throughout the campaign, Clinton highlighted his plans to overhaul the current college loan program by creating a National Service Trust Fund that would allow college students to repay education loans through community service.
Both the apprenticeship program and revamping the federal college-loan program will require major investments. "If people are [also] expecting a lot of federal money in the K-12 system, I think they are going to be disappointed," says Kirst. "If you're going to be the Jobs President, I don't think you start with second grade."
Limited resources and high expectations will require careful juggling from Clinton and his nominee for secretary of education, Richard Riley, the former governor of South Carolina.
"There is huge pent-up demand," Mr. Doyle says. "You've got very hungry Democrats in Congress and out there in the cities and towns of America who want the spigots opened up again. Many of them are going to be bitterly disappointed, because there's just nothing to put into the pipeline." Funding challenges
During the Reagan and Bush years, Congress engaged in a constant tug-of-war over funding for education programs, points out Newman. Some Democrats in Congress, he says, "feel like they have been the defenders of those programs for a long time. Now, they're saying, `Whew! We made it through that without these programs getting chopped out. Now it's time that we get a little benefit.' "
The challenge for Clinton and his team will be to keep Congress moving forward without major new investment in education programs. But many educators are encouraged by the early signs of Clinton's commitment to improving education.
The president-elect's Cabinet appointments help restore the connection between education, the economy, and other social issues, such as welfare reform, says Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest US teachers union.
"He has put a lot of people who have a passionate interest in education into Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions," Mr. Shanker says.
"I'm sure that we'll have some disagreements and some arguments," Shanker predicts. "But there's a difference between having a disagreement with somebody who is out to kill you and having a disagreement with somebody where you know that your goals are the same but you've got some different opinions on how to get there. In one case, it's a life or death struggle; in the other case, it's a family feud."