March 3, 1999
Honorable William L. Clay
This year, we have a great opportunity to work together, across party lines, to address the pressing need to educate our children.
As I have testified, I had hoped that Ed-Flex legislation could be considered as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, as you proceed to markup, you should be aware that while I welcome the idea of greater flexibility in education for states and school districts, I also support improvements that provide greater accountability for results.
At the same time, we must do more to give our children a first class education. That is why I strongly support an amendment to build on our bipartisan efforts of last year to reduce class size in the early grades. As you recall, Congress voted across party lines to provide a down payment on the President's class size reduction initiative in the FY 1999 budget, by appropriating $1.2 billion to help communities hire about 30,000 teachers. We can finish the job by authorizing $11.4 billion more over six years to help communities hire 100,000 well-prepared teachers to bring class size in the early grades down to a national average of 18 students.
As parents and teachers across America understand, smaller classes can make a profound difference for our children. Studies show that teachers in smaller classes give more attention to students and spend less time on discipline; as a result, students in these classes learn more and get a stronger foundation in the basics. Also, reduced class size makes the greatest difference for minority and disadvantaged students and would help qualified teachers to identify and work sooner with children with disabilities including learning disabilities.
I am asking you to show continued long-term support for this effort to reduce class size across the nation.
Richard W. Riley
Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation.
[ Return to Key Policy Letters ]
This page last updated March 17, 1999 (pjk)