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Remarks of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
At Signing of the Improving America's School Act
October 20, 1994 - (at Framingham High School)

      It is a privilege to be here today at Framingham High School, and an honor to welcome President Clinton and all of our distinguished guests, as well as the most important guests of all--the students who will actually benefit from this bill.

      I only wish Secretary Dick Riley could be here too, but
we all wish him a rapid recovery from his operation.

      I commend leaders in both parties for their commitment to better schools: The Chairman of the House Education Committee in our state, Mark Roosevelt; Chairman of the Senate Committee, Framingham's own Dave Magnani; Republican state Senator Jane Swift from North Adams, and three effective leaders on education in Congress--Rhode Island's Claiborne Pell, Vermont's Jim Jeffords, and Michigan's Bill Ford.

      I also want to welcome our many other guests from Massachusetts, including so many teachers, parents and students from Framingham and across the state. This bill is for you and people like you across the country, and it is fitting that you are part of this signing.

      I'd much rather be signing this kind of contract for the future of education--than the kind of contract with the past that some others are touting these days.

      Education and Massachusetts have always been inseparable. Our Commonwealth is the home of the country's first public school and the first state board of education. One of our state's greatest gifts to the country was the idea of public education--education for all.

      A century and a half ago, Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, called education "the great equalizer" and the true source of prosperity.

      Today, that vision is alive and well, and it's being revitalized for the future. The surest way to expand opportunity and crate a brighter future for the people of America is to invest in education.

      In the past two years, we have made the most progress in a generation. Under the leadership of President Clinton and Secretary Riley, this Congress became the Education Congress. Six times we broke through the gridlock that has blocked reform for a decade. Six bills in two years, and these measures will strengthen education at all levels, preschool through college. We are replacing the "rising tide of mediocrity" with a new tide of excellence.

      We are setting high goals for student achievement, with higher standards so that everyone--parents, pupils, teachers, schools, whole communities--will know what students should learn.

      We are creating the first comprehensive program to help the forgotten half--the thousands of students who go directly from high school to the workplace.

      We are taking new steps to make college affordable. More middle-income families will be eligible for grants and loans-- with less red tape, lower loan fees, lower interest rates, and fairer terms for repayment.

      And today, President Clinton is signing into law the largest single source of federal aid to education--the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

      Its principle is simple. Every child in America deserves a chance for excellence in education--and every public school should have the means to provide it.

      Over the next five years, this law will provide $60 billion to local schools across the country. Next year alone, Massachusetts will receive more than $160 million in federal funding under this act.

      Most important, this legislation changes how the federal government funds education. It cuts red tape and gives schools new freedom to decide how resources should be used. Schools should be held accountable for results, not paperwork. Washington shouldn't try to dictate to local schools, and neither should Senator Jesse Helms.

      Framingham symbolizes the right kind of local commitment to education, to change, and to a sound use of federal resources. You are one of 20 schools in Massachusetts selected to connect students to a nationwide computer network through a program jointly funded by the federal and state governments.

      We take pride in these achievements, but we also recognize that many families are increasingly concerned about their future. Employment is up, but wages still lag. Too many people are in jobs with good benefits worry about losing them. Education is the key that opens the golden door of the American dream--but for too many students, the key no longer fits.

      Too often, in the face of these concerns, Congress seems too preoccupied with partisan politics. But I believe our work on education shows what can be done.

      By giving al students a strong education, by helping all workers upgrade their skills on the job, the whole country will benefit. And over time, the standard of living for everyone will steadily improve.

      We must keep schools up-to-date with new technology today, and make sure they are part of the information superhighway tomorrow. Students cannot prepare for the 21st century by learning in 19th century classrooms.

      We must work harder to keep guns and violence out of schools. No students can study or learn in a free-fire zone.

      We must recognize that education does not end at the schoolhouse door. In a more competitive world where change is the only certainty, we must help all workers adapt to new needs and new industries. Next year in the Senate, I intend to do all I can to turn our piecemeal job-training programs into a comprehensive job education system to help workers learn new skills and earn more throughout their careers.

      Some will say no to this future, just as they said no in the past Congress. They put politics above progress. But a solid majority in Congress and the country believe that education is the foundation of our nation's strength. And so we prevailed on those bills--and we shall prevail again.

      The thousands of students here today will gradually begin to see results in their own classrooms. All of your have your own hopes for what you want to do with your lives. Each of you has dreams of what you can be. Our goal in the actions we are taking is very simple--to help you realize those dreams.

      Above all, you should known one other thing. The progress we have made would not have been possible without the dedication and leadership of a President who is committed to putting education first. Two years ago, when he was campaigning for President, Bill Clinton pledged to work day and night to pass real education reform. And he has done it-- just as he promised.

      As all of you know, we have had pretenders in recent years to the title of "Education President." But now we have the real thing--a President willing to roll up his sleeves and get the hard work of education reform done. Mr. President, we are deeply honored to have you--the REAL Education President-- here today to sign this groundbreaking legislation.

      And now I would like to present the Student Council President of Framingham High School, Jeremy Spector, who will introduce the President of the United States.

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