21st Century Schools, 21st Century Classrooms:
Al Gore knows we cannot lift up our children in schools that are
falling down. And with the largest generation in American history moving
through our schools -- even larger than the Baby Boom -- we face a special
need to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, to replace out-of-date textbooks, and
to wire all our schools to the Internet.
Al Gore has fought for the Clinton-Gore proposal to modernize and
rebuild 6,000 schools nationwide. He helped to win from Congress a down
payment toward 100,000 new highly-trained teachers, to reduce class sizes
from 22 to 18 in the early grades. But he has called for the nation to go much farther. He believes that in the 21st Century, we
should reduce class size below one teacher for every 20 students -- not just in the early grades, but in all grades.
As a recognized leader in educational technology -- offering early Congressional legislation to promote educational software -- he has also led the Administration's effort to connect every classroom and library in the United States to the Internet. He fought for the passage of the "e-rate" -- deep discounts to make
Internet access affordable for every school and library in the nation. Al
Gore is working toward a 21st Century where textbooks are never out-of-date,
and where a child can reach across a computer keyboard and read any book ever
written, see any painting ever painted, and hear any symphony ever composed.
And he knows this is a vital economic issue: by 2000, 60% of the new jobs in
America will require advanced technological skills. Only 20% of our workforce
possesses these skills today.
Expanding access to higher education:
Al Gore has worked to expand
student loans and lower their cost to students; to create HOPE Scholarship
tax credits, to make the first two years of college virtually free for every
American; to expand Pell Grants for needy students to attend college; and to
defend these crucial priorities when some in Congress tried to block or cut
them. Al Gore believes that in the knowledge-based economy of the
21st Century, everyone who is willing to work for it must have the chance to
go to college.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools:
Al Gore believes that if our children are going to learn, then first and foremost, our schools must be safe. He believes we must take back every last one of our schools from the gangs, guns, and dealers -- to make all our schools safe, disciplined, and 100% drug-free. Al Gore has called for more character education and discipline in our schools, and greater responsibility from every parent, teacher, and child -- to make sure all children know the difference between right and wrong. He has called for strong national measures to break up violent teen gangs and keep guns and drugs off the streets and away from schools. He has worked to put more drug counselors and violence prevention coordinators in public schools. And he has championed quality after-school care, to give children safe, supervised places to go during the afternoon hours when most juvenile crime takes place.
In the 21st Century, to keep up with a fast-moving, fast-changing economy,
workers must have the ability to keep learning for a lifetime. That is why
Al Gore has focussed on the next great frontier in American
education: dramatically expanding opportunities for lifelong learning.
Today, many of our most crucial industries are facing shortages of the
skilled workers they need. At the same time, adults with higher levels of
education earn more, have greater job security, are less likely to be
unemployed, and are more likely to find reemployment quickly if they are
Al Gore believes that in the 21st Century, buying lifelong
learning should be as affordable and routine as buying a new appliance or
financing a car.
Through his Reinventing Government initiative, he successfully streamlined the tangle of federal job training programs into a simple system of skill grants that go right into workers' hands. And this January, he convened a national summit of working families, educators, and leaders from the business, labor, and non-profit communities to begin devising new solutions to this challenge.
Now he is urging consideration of new ways to help Americans pool their own savings, contributions from their employers, and federal funds -- to create new lifelong learning savings accounts, to help people pay for the higher education they need to get ahead.
Click here to read Al Gore's remarks at the Lifelong Learning Summit.
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