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Education and Lifelong Learning

"Together, we must bring revolutionary change to our public schools. I want to work with parents, teachers, and principals to create the modern classrooms, higher standards, and smaller class sizes your irreplaceable kid deserves."

- Al Gore

Education and Lifelong Learning

Throughout his career in public life, Al Gore has fought for investments in education -- from pre-school to college, to job training and re-training -- because he knows that education has always been the heart of the American dream. Land grant colleges and the Agricultural Extension Service in the 19th Century helped family farmers earn a living from the soil. Public high schools in the early 20th Century gave new opportunity to the immigrant families that were the backbone of the Industrial Age. The G.I. Bill opened the doors to an unlimited future for the veterans of World War II -- and built our great middle class.

Today, at the dawn of the 21st Century, America is at another crossroads: the global economy and Information Age; the changing nature of the workplace, and the exploding pace of knowledge itself; and at the same time, the largest generation in American history moving through America's schools.

To make sure that every child can seize the enormous potential of the 21st Century, Gore has worked for policies that invest in five critical areas: raising standards and improving the basics in our schools; modernizing our schools to create truly 21st Century classrooms; expanding access to higher education; making schools safe and drug-free; and working toward the day when every American will have the chance to keep learning for a lifetime, to get the skills they need to succeed.

Raising standards and improving the basics:

At a time when the skills gap in our nation is far too wide -- and at a time when America still lags behind its competitors in math and science performance -- Al Gore believes we must raise standards for students, teachers, and schools. He believes that every child should start the first day of school ready to learn -- and that pre-school should be available for every child, in every community in America. He believes we must end social promotion in America, so no one graduates with a diploma he or she can barely even read. He believes in special measures to turn around failing schools -- and ending the use of unqualified teachers, some of whom are teaching in areas they didn't even study. He believes in discipline and character education, and an emphasis on community service in our schools. He has worked to dramatically expand after-school care -- to give children safe, supervised, and educational places to go while their parents are still at work. At his annual Family Reunion policy conference in Nashville, he has urged a greater parental role in their children's education.

Al Gore has called for revolutionary change to improve our schools, and has promised to make it America's top national priority. While communities, school districts, and parents should have the flexibility and control to make important decisions about education, there is a need for strong national leadership -- to set goals for our educational system and to provide more of the tools to help Americans meet them.

Click here to read Al Gore's remarks at Columbia Teachers College.

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.

Lifelong learning:

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 displaced.

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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