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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 6, 2004

Fact Sheet: New Education Initiatives for Stronger Workforce

Today's Presidential Action

President Bush visited El Dorado, Arkansas today to meet with students, workers, business leaders, and educators. He announced a new plan to strengthen math and science education to ensure that young Americans are graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and to compete for the high-demand jobs of the 21st Century.

The President's plan strengthens and modernizes vocational and technical education, expands math and science education for all students, enables more low-income students to pursue degrees in math and science, and enables educators to determine whether high schools are graduating students with the skills they need to succeed.

Background: Helping Young Americans to Get the Skills They Need to Succeed

America's growing economy is a changing economy, and we must respond to these changes by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our 21st Century economy.

Many of the fastest-growing occupations require strong math and science preparation, and training beyond the high school level. Unfortunately, not enough high school students are receiving the skills they need to compete in these fields and in higher education.

The President's Solution:

Elementary students: To help the youngest Americans receive a quality education and learn the basic skills they will need to succeed in the future, President Bush proposed and signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which should be learned in the early grades in our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered. With the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, we are making progress toward educational excellence for every child.

High school students: President Bush also wants to help students in high school who had already completed their elementary education before the No Child Left Behind Act became law. The President's Jobs for the 21st Century initiative includes:

President Bush today announced that he will build on these existing initiatives with the following important steps:

Strengthening and Modernizing Support for Vocational Education: The major federal program for vocational education, the Perkins Vocational Education program, has remained fundamentally unchanged since its founding in 1917; President Bush proposes to modernize this pre-World War I program to better serve the needs of the 21st century worker. The President's proposal redirects $1 billion in annual funding from the Perkins Vocational Education program into a new Secondary and Technical Education program (Sec Tech) and requires that schools participating in the program offer 4 years of English, 3 years of math and science, and 3 years of social studies as part of their vocational education curriculum.

Presidential Math and Science Scholars Fund: To ensure that America remains the world leader in the innovation economy -- and to ensure that America's graduates have the training they need to compete for the best jobs of the 21st century -- President Bush wants to expand opportunities for math and science education in colleges and universities. The President proposes establishing a new public-private partnership to provide $100 million in grants to low-income students who study math or science. Under this plan, approximately 20,000 low-income students would receive up to $5000 each to study math or science. Students would have to be eligible for Pell Grants to receive this additional $5,000, although this new fund would be run separately from the Pell Grant program.

The cost of this new initiative would be offset by an important reform to the Pell Grant program. Currently, there is no limit on the number of years an individual can receive a Pell Grant to help pay for an undergraduate degree. The Administration proposes an 8-year equivalent time limit for a 4-year equivalent degree and a 4-year equivalent time limit for a 2-year equivalent degree. This reform would encourage students to finish sooner and eliminate abuse of the program where students extend their studies excessively.

Assessing Whether High Schools Are Producing Educated Graduates: To ensure that students graduating from high school have the skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education or careers, the President's plan would include 12th graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Currently, states are required to participate in the NAEP in 4th and 8th grades in reading and math every two years. Extending this requirement to 12th grade will enable educators to assess whether high schools are meeting the needs of students so they can learn the skills they will need to succeed. It will also help to identify areas where they are not meeting the needs of students and to strengthen curricula to ensure improvement.

The President's initiatives would result in more students graduating from high schools and colleges with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century. Encouraging more students to pursue math and science will also help our economy to continue to lead the world in innovation and will result in better jobs and a brighter economic future for young Americans. With a better trained and better educated workforce, America will continue to be the best place in the world to do business.

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