March 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Gore Asks Congress To Ok School-Construction Funds Vice President Stands In For Clinton At Weekly Radio Address

Kathy Sawyer Washington Post
 

Vice President Gore stood in for his injured boss Saturday, broadcasting an appeal for Congress to approve a $5 billion school-construction program that would rescue U.S. students from “buildings that are literally falling down.”

Gore began the weekly White House radio address with an upbeat report on President Clinton’s recuperation at Bethesda Naval Hospital following knee surgery: “The president is doing great. He’s resting comfortably, and he’ll be back on his feet - both of them - very soon.”

The injury had forced Clinton to cancel a Friday event in Florida where he was to promote his school modernization plan. The president has said he will make education a top priority in his second term, and his budget calls for $5 billion over the next four years to help school districts pay for repairs and construction.

In his address, Gore said public funds should focus first on teachers and children, “not on unnecessary overhead and bloated bureaucracy.” But he added, “Any educational progress we achieve is at risk if our children are asked to learn in a landscape littered with peeling paint and broken glass.”

Even though student populations are at an all-time high, he said, “Many of our schoolhouses are now at an all-time low, run-down and overcrowded and stuck with ancient technology or no technology at all.”

A third of U.S. schools are in need of major repairs or outright replacement, he said. “Sixty percent need major building repairs to fix sagging roofs or to repair cracked foundations. Forty-six percent even lack the basic electrical wiring to support computers, modems and modern communications technology.”

The White House believes that the infusion of federal funding will spur $20 billion in investments for school modernization by states, localities and the private sector-a 25 percent increase above current levels.

The weekly Republican radio address, delivered by Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, advocated a measure that would allow working people to chose paid time off instead of traditional overtime pay.

Myrick said the plan, though of benefit to all workers, would ease a burden that “seems to fall particularly hard on many working women” who want more time to spend with their families.

Although there is strong resistance to the plan among unions, Myrick said that it works. “Certainly all workers in America deserve the same rights that federal, state and local employees have enjoyed since 1985. Comp time seeks to provide employees a choice.”


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