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Education Committee Senators Holds News Conference After Meeting With the President

Aired June 5, 2001 - 14:57   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: I think we're going back to the White House. Senator Kennedy is speaking after meeting with the president.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: ... the education committee and other interested senators meet with the president of the United States and the secretary of education. The president had indicated his strong desire that we were going to continue to reach a conclusion on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Our leader, Senator Daschle, has indicated that this is a priority for him, and he has asked all of us to make sure that we continue our work diligently on this, and to make every effort to bring it to a speedy conclusion.

There are still more than 50 amendments which will have to be, I expect, voted on or disposed of one way or the other. So we're looking at another week or 10 days, or perhaps no longer than two weeks, in order to reach the final vote on this measure.

This is an historic opportunity that we have in terms of strengthening education for the children in this country. For the most part, our role is to bring focus and attention on the neediest children in our nation. And I think we have a strong blueprint to be able to do that, which will build upon the establishment of standards which have been established by 49 of the 50 states.

We'll have assessments to be able to determine what children have been able to learn, bringing special focus on literacy and math. And I think all of us understand that unless children have the basic understanding of dealing with mathematical problems, unless they are able to read and read effectively, then their opportunities for future education or training or being a part of our economy are significantly diminished.

The final result of this effort, however, will be limited unless we are going to provide the resources to reach all of the children that are eligible. Under the current proposal that has been made by the president and the administration, we only reach a little better than a third of all of the children who need the kind of help and assistance, the supplementary services, the after-school programs, the better-qualified teachers, smaller class sizes, the kind of help and assistance that can help the children achieve their academic achievement. We indicated to the president that many of us, myself and I think the majority of the members of our Education Committee, are strongly committed to the inclusion of the funding for what we call IDEA, which is the federal response to providing help and assistance to local communities that have special needs children. And we think that is a major improvement in this legislation and we're very hopeful that out of a conference when this legislation is concluded that that proposal will be there.

So if we are able to get the funding for the IDEA, and we're able to get, at least during the next four years, the full funding for the Title I programs to reach the neediest children, I think this will be an historic achievement and an accomplishment.

If we are not going to get to the funding for these children, I think we'll have a very important missed opportunity.

It is our intention to conclude this legislation, continue to make the case with this administration for the resources which are necessary. And I'm very hopeful that, by the end of the day, working with Republicans and Democrats alike, and working with the administration, we can get the funding which is necessary to help and assist the children of this country.

Jim?

SEN. JAMES JEFFORDS (I), VERMONT: This was a most reassuring moment. We came together and began to understand how much we had in common, and that we would all be working together toward a common goal to help the kids. And I'm sure now that when we meet in changing circumstances that this is one area that we're going to move forward rapidly and with all of the necessary people joining together to get a good bill out and get it out quickly.

KENNEDY: Senator Collins?

(END OF AUDIO FEED)

ALLEN: That was Senator Jim Jeffords, who is becoming an independent tomorrow. And that is the call for hearings from Senator Kennedy and now the other senators here who had been meeting with the president about the education measure which they hope to pass in a couple of weeks. Everyone is talking about getting along and getting things done. Well, we shall see from here what happens as we have this power shift from Capitol Hill.

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