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 Home > News & Policies > September 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 2, 2004

Strengthening Education and Job Training Opportunities

We live and work in a time of dramatic change. A generation ago, workers often had one job or one skill for their entire career - often with the same company. Today, workers change jobs, and even careers, many times during their lives. These more dynamic times can result in great opportunities for all Americans - if they have the education and skills they need.

High-quality education is fundamental to achieving the American Dream. In 2001, President Bush called for significant reforms to K-12 education through No Child Left Behind Act to set high standards and produce real results so that every child in America would receive a quality education. The President signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law to ensure that all students become proficient in reading and math and to close the achievement gap that exists between students of different socio-economic backgrounds.

We are already seeing hopeful results. Math scores are up in fourth and eighth grades across the country. Fourth graders in urban schools are showing strong gains in both reading and math. And from Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland, to Illinois, Wisconsin, and New Mexico, minority children are improving test scores and narrowing the achievement gap.

The President's New Education Proposals

The President's new education proposals build on his first successful reforms by:

  • Ensuring high-quality education opportunities so every child begins school ready to succeed: President Bush will expand efforts to strengthen early childhood education, including Head Start, early literacy programs, and early childhood development education for parents.
  • Ensuring every high school student graduates with the skills needed to succeed in college and a globally competitive workforce: President Bush proposed to increase funding for his Striving Readers program to $200 million annually, and to establish a $200 million fund for states to encourage schools to develop performance plans for entering high school students. To ensure that high school diplomas are truly meaningful, President Bush proposed requiring state assessments in grades three through eleven - and he will support this effort with $250 million in annual funding. To strengthen online educational opportunities, he is creating an eLearning Clearinghouse of online courses available to students and adults. To reward teachers who demonstrate success in preparing their students through increases in student achievement, he proposed a $500 million incentive fund for states and school districts.
  • Ensuring every adult can access the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace: The President proposed establishing a new $125 million Community College Access Grants Fund to improve the services that community colleges provide and encourage high school students to continue on to college, especially for low-income and minority students. To make worker training more affordable, the President proposed to make loans available to help workers pay for short-term training that leads to an industry-recognized credential or certificate. And, the President's plan would increase post-secondary education options and eliminate needless student aid restrictions - particularly for adult students - giving them greater access to the skills they need to succeed.

Background: Early Childhood Development for a Successful Start

Early childhood development is one of the best investments America can make to ensure that children are successful in school and later in life. Studies show vocabulary, letter knowledge, and phonological awareness, in addition to social and emotional factors, have a significant impact on later success in school. Whether in pre-school or at home with parents or other caregivers, every young child should have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed in school.

President Bush continues his efforts to improve early childhood education through the Good Start/Grow Smart program, including his proposal to strengthen Head Start. Additionally, the President will:

  • Give priority consideration for Federal funding to early childhood programs in states that have a coordinated early childhood plan involving Head Start, pre-K, and childcare services;
  • Continue volunteer parent early literacy training through Head Start;
  • Continue to fund research to: develop the most effective curricula and programs for teaching children early literacy and math skills; develop developmentally appropriate measurements; and identify effective adult and family literacy programs;
  • Expand the Reach Out and Read program, which seeks to make early literacy a standard part of pediatric primary care;
  • Continue and expand distribution of Healthy Start, Grow Smart booklets to provide parents the information they need to enhance their children's early development;
  • Engage faith-based and community-based organizations to help provide parents with the skills they need to advance their children's healthy development; and
  • Increase outreach efforts to minority families to better disseminate effective early childhood development strategies.

Elementary and Secondary Education to Increase Student Achievement

While the No Child Left Behind Act is setting high standards and increasing student achievement for schools across America, there is more to be done to improve our Nation's high schools. Today's statistics show that only 32 percent of high school graduates are actually prepared for higher education or the workforce. Statistics also show that nationally, of 100 ninth graders: only 68 will graduate from high school on time; only 40 will directly enter college; only 27 are still enrolled their sophomore year; and only 18 will end up graduating from college within six years.

The President knows there is no more important job than preparing our students for the jobs and opportunities of the 21st century, and that preparation must begin in the early grades and continue on through middle and high school. President Bush is committed to building on his Jobs for the 21st Century initiative to improve our Nation's high schools and ensure that every high school student graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in higher education and the workforce.

  • Better Preparation for High School. President Bush proposed to increase funding for his Striving Readers program to $200 million annually, and to establish a $200 million fund for states to encourage schools, with the input of parents, to use 8th grade test data to develop performance plans for entering high school students. The proposal also utilizes computer technology by requiring periodic classroom-based assessment of individual students. Research shows that providing teachers with weekly information on the performance of individual students, with computer-generated suggestions on what to teach, what to review, and specific lessons for remedial work, is effective in accelerating student achievement and ensuring that students do not fall behind during an individual school year.
  • Better Assessments with New High School Tests. The No Child Left Behind Act requires assessments to determine if a student needs assistance in early grades. To ensure that high school diplomas are truly meaningful, President Bush proposed requiring state assessments in grades three through eleven. This proposal would require states to add two tests in high school phased in over several years, and Federal funding would cover the costs of these new assessments with $250 million in annual funding.
  • More On-line Opportunities with the eLearning Clearinghouse. President Bush proposed creating a clearinghouse of online learning opportunities available to students and adults. Today there is no single place where students, parents, and adults can search and compare available online courses. Under the President's proposal, students will be able to easily search for specific courses based on various criteria including price, schedule, and type of provider including non-profit, for-profit, and higher education establishments. The eLearning Clearinghouse would also provide a user-rating system that would provide feedback from customers on both providers and courses.
  • Extra Incentives for Teachers with Increases in Student Achievement. President Bush proposed a $500 million incentive fund for states and school districts that choose to reward teachers who demonstrate success in preparing their students through increases in student achievement. The Fund would serve two goals: rewarding effective teachers teaching in schools most in need; and rewarding effective teachers in schools that are top performers in closing the achievement gap and are meeting the annual targets of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Strengthening Higher Education for a Successful Workforce

The President believes that America has the finest system of higher education in the world with a wide and diverse range of options available. Yet, there is a significant shortage of workers with post-secondary education. Eighty percent of the fastest-growing jobs of the 21st century require post-secondary education or training. Approximately 650,000 adults are in need of short-term training and are not receiving it today.

Traditionally, the system of higher education, including student aid formulas, was designed for full-time students between the ages of 18 and 24, who attend post-secondary education once in their lifetimes. Today's statistics indicate that only about one-third of the 15 million students enrolled in post-secondary education are these once-in-a-lifetime students, and changes in technology and the new economy are increasingly requiring individuals to return for additional post-secondary education to upgrade their skills.

The President's higher education proposals make the system more user-friendly - more oriented to the needs of today's students - and ensure students have access to programs that will provide the skills needed in the globally competitive 21st century economy. These proposals will also allow students greater access to programs based on recent technological advances.

  • Community College Access Grants. The President proposed establishing a new Community College Access Grants Fund at $125 million to improve the services that community colleges provide. Dual-enrollment and early college programs play an important role in encouraging high school students to continue on to college, especially for low-income and minority students. The Fund would provide the following: an incentive for community colleges to provide dual-enrollment programs, which allow high schools students to earn college credit; incentives for states to create policies to make it easier for students to transfer credits earned at community colleges to four-year institutions; funding to give scholarships to students who enroll in and complete a dual-enrollment program and who continue on to receive a bachelor's degree. Current state funding rules do not encourage dual-enrollment programs because high schools and community colleges each receive funds on a per-student basis, and are therefore hesitant
  • Opportunities for Life-Long Learning:
    • Provide New Loans to Pay for Short-Term Training. The President proposed to make loans available to help workers pay for short-term training that leads to an industry-recognized credential or certificate. These loans would help many non-traditional students upgrade their skills - including older workers, workers transitioning to new jobs, and older workers pursuing a second career.
    • Increase Flexibility of Federal Student Aid Programs. The President's proposal would increase post-secondary education options and eliminate needless student aid restrictions. Specifically, the proposal would:
      • Expand the availability of competency-based programs, as an alternative to traditional credit-hour programs. Competency-based programs award students with degrees or certifications when they have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge, as measured through assessments tailored to their degree program.
      • Encourage post-secondary education programs that allow students to enroll when ready and not only at the traditional start of the semester.
      • Eliminate the so-called 90-10 rule to expand higher education opportunities for low-income students. Under current Federal law, the 90-10 rule requires an institution to derive at least 10 percent of its revenue from non-federal sources. This can be a disadvantage for institutions that serve lower-income populations.
      • Increase online post-secondary education opportunities by eliminating current Federal student aid restrictions on distance education.
    • Year-Round Pell Grants for Low-income Students. The President's proposals would permit the availability of year-round Pell Grants for students who are accelerating their program of study with the intent of graduating early. Currently, students are allowed to receive only one Pell Grant during a single award year, which discourages students from attending school throughout the entire school year so they can graduate earlier, including completing a four-year program in three years.
  • Improving Adult Literacy. The President proposed developing a comprehensive web-based literacy tool for adults, which would be made available in public libraries, community colleges, and at social service offices, including Head Start Centers and One-Stop job centers. This literacy tool will increase adult literacy across the U.S.

The President's Current Initiatives to Improve Education and Job Training

  • Striving Readers Initiative. The President has proposed a new $100 million Striving Readers Initiative making available competitive grants to develop, implement, and evaluate effective reading interventions for middle or high school students reading significantly below grade level. This program complements the President's Reading First state grants program, which provides comprehensive, scientifically based reading instruction for children in kindergarten through third grade. The proposal provides funds to approximately 50 to 100 school districts for reading intervention programs to help middle and high school students catch up to their peers in reading.
  • Mathematics and Science Partnership Program. The President has proposed a $120 million increase for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act. The increase supports direct, Federal competitive grants to partnerships to increase achievement in mathematics for secondary students. The new 3-year competitive grants would support projects that have significant potential to accelerate the mathematics achievement of all secondary students, but especially low-achieving students. The initiative would focus on ensuring that states and school districts implement professional development projects for mathematics teachers that are strongly grounded in research and that help mathematics teachers strengthen their skills.
  • Improved Advanced Placement. President Bush has proposed a $28 million increase for the Advanced Placement program authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act, bringing spending to nearly $52 million per year. The increase in funding will help ensure that teachers in low-income schools are well-trained to teach Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Advanced Placement programs not only encourage the growth of AP and IB courses, but also serve as a mechanism for upgrading the entire high school curriculum for all students.
  • Adjunct Teacher Corps: Bringing Experience into the Classroom. The President has proposed a new $40 million initiative to provide competitive grants to school district partnerships with public-private institutions to create the Adjunct Teacher Corps, with opportunities for professionals to teach middle and high school courses in the core academic subjects, particularly in mathematics and science. Many school districts need personnel to strengthen instruction in middle and high schools in the core academic subjects, especially mathematics and science. The Adjunct Teacher Corps would help alleviate this critical situation by bringing professionals with subject-matter knowledge and experience into the classroom.
  • Rigorous Courses with the State Scholars Program. President Bush has proposed $12 million in funding for the successful State Scholars program to make grants available nationwide. In August 2002, President Bush announced the State Scholars Initiative, modeled on the successful Texas Scholars program, to encourage high school students to take more rigorous high school courses. Under the State Scholars Initiative, 12 states have already received assistance in developing and promoting strong courses of study, as well as providing special incentives for students enrolled in these programs.
  • Enhanced Pell Grants. The President has proposed establishing a $33 million program to enhance Pell Grants to reward low-income students who participate in the State Scholars Program by taking a rigorous high school curriculum. This program would provide up to an additional $1,000 per year to students in the first two years of college who complete the rigorous State Scholars curriculum in high school, enroll in college full-time, and are Pell Grant recipients. Next year, approximately 36,000 low-income graduating high school seniors would be eligible to receive an enhanced Pell Grant under this proposal.
  • Strengthening and Modernizing Support for Vocational Education. President Bush has proposed to modernize the major Federal program for vocational education, the Perkins Vocational Education 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 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.
  • Assessing Whether High Schools Are Producing Educated Graduates. The President's plan includes testing 12th graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a nationally representative assessment that allows policymakers to evaluate our Nation's education system. Today, 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 policymakers and educators to assess whether high schools are meeting the needs of students. It will also help to identify areas where they are not meeting the needs of students and to strengthen curricula to ensure improvement in those areas.
  • 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 seeks to expand opportunities for math and science education in colleges and universities. The President has proposed 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 $5,000 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.
  • Double the Number of Workers Receiving Job Training. President Bush has proposed to reform the Workforce Investment Act to ensure that job training programs work better for America's workers, and to close the skills gap so we fill every high-growth job with a well-trained American worker. The reforms include: providing $4 billion in Federal job training funds to state governors with less Federal red tape and more flexibility; putting strict limits on overhead in major Federal job training programs by closing loopholes and enforcing limits to ensure tax dollars support training for workers who need it - reducing overhead costs by an additional $300 million that will be used to train 100,000 additional workers; and giving workers more choices about their job training by increasing the use of personal job training accounts called Innovation Training Accounts (ITAs).
  • Community-Based Job Training Grants. The President's Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative includes a $250 million proposal to help America's community colleges train 100,000 additional workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs. This proposal expands the Department of Labor's successful High Growth Job Training Initiative, launched under President Bush in 2002, which has provided $92 million to 47 partnerships nationwide between community colleges, public workforce agencies, and employers. These new grants will help community colleges produce graduates with the skills most in demand by local employers.