For Immediate Release - October 5, 1999
Contact: MJ Fox, Communications Director, (406)444-3111
(HELENA)- Governor Marc Racicot endorsed the education priorities that Gov. George W. Bush outlined in a speech given today.
"The priorities that Governor Bush outlined today would provide more flexibility to state and local government, reduce administration and provide better defined goals and expectations for public education in America," Governor Racicot said.
In the second of three education policy speeches to the Manhattan Institute on Tuesday in New York City, Gov. Bush set two goals as essential to effective education reform: "pressure from above and competition from below - a demand for high standards and measurement at the top, given momentum and urgency by expanded options for parents and students."
To meet the first goal, Gov. Bush proposed redefining the relationship between the states and the federal government, granting freedom from regulation in exchange for results. By consolidating most of the current 60 Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs into 5 flexible categories, states will have unprecedented local control in charting the path to success. The five categories are: improving achievement of disadvantaged children, promoting fluency in English, training and recruiting teachers, encouraging character and school safety, and promoting innovation and informed parental choice.
In return for this flexibility, states will be required to implement an accountability system to measure student progress. Each state will test every child in grades 3-8 each year in reading and math. While the federal government will share equally the costs of developing and administering the test, states will set their own standards and select their own tests.
As an incentive for schools to succeed, an Achievement in Education Fund will be established to provide rewards to those schools that improve overall student achievement or improve the performance of disadvantaged students. Schools that permit student performance to stagnate or decline will have the administrative portion of their federal funding - roughly 5 percent --withdrawn.
To keep parents informed, each state will be required to publish school-by-school report cards to be widely distributed, including on the internet. Tuesday morning Gov. Bush highlighted one of his proposals designed to give parents more options when he visited the Sisulu Children's Academy in Harlem - New York's first charter school.
Governor Bush proposed the establishment of a Charter School Homestead Fund to provide $3 billion in loan guarantees to help establish or improve 2,000 charter schools in two years - enough to double the existing number. The fund will provide guarantees ranging from 75 to 100 percent for charter school start-up costs.
"If charters are properly done - free to hire their own teachers, adopt their own curriculum, set their own operating rules and high standards- they will change the face of American education. Public schools without bureaucracy. Public schools controlled by parents. Public schools held to the highest goals. Public schools as we imagined they could be," said Gov.Bush.
Other options for parents include expansion of Education Savings Accounts and private school choice. A parent's annual contribution limit to the education account will be raised from $500 to $5,000 per student. These funds can be withdrawn tax free to pay for education expenses from kindergarten to college. School choice will be expanded so that federal funds will no longer be prohibited from being used by states for state or local programs that offer parents private school choice. The decision to implement a school choice program will still lie with each state, but federal funds will support state innovations.