President William J Clinton

In this post I will show how the Clinton administration continued along the path laid out by the Charlottesville meeting which had adopted the push for standards and sought to obtain excellence for all students.

In enacting the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) 1994, President Clinton tried to tie in some equity policies with its focus on standards reform.

Since then, there has been an attempt to do a balancing act between equity and excellence. This has prompted historian Carl Kaestle1 to ask, “What balance shall we strike between an emphasis on equity and an emphasis on excellence?”

President Clinton and Vice President Gore made improving education a cornerstone of their Administration.

When he introduced his education plans to Congress in 1999, President Clinton claimed that his administration had to do a better job with the $15 Billion sent to American schools every year.

As a result of their efforts the Clinton administration saw rising reading and math scores, including even those in the highest poverty districts.

President Clinton “used education to emphasize the New Democratic commitment to opportunity over entitlement and to distance his party from the discredited policies of the welfare state.”2

Because of their efforts the Clinton Administration was considered by some observers as a friend to education. There was greater funding for teacher development and reduced class size.

In addition, $1.2 billion was provided for urgent school renovation and the 2001 budget provided funds to repair Native American schools.

In an effort to open the doors of college to all Americans, the HOPE Scholarships and Lifetime Learning tax credits were created by President Clinton.

This was the largest expansion of college opportunity since the GI Bill, and it allowed millions of American families much-needed assistance to pay for college.

Students benefited tremendously from the Clinton initiatives. For example, one of his education initiatives expanded the Work-Study program while another increased the Pell Grant maximum award to $3,750.

In the next post I will show that notwithstanding the fact that George H Bush who was Governor of Texas at the time, vehemently opposed President Clinton education initiatives, but when he assumed office President Bush enacted legislation on education which closely resembled the Clinton initiatives.

1. Kaestle, Federal Aid to Education Since World War II, 2001, 32
2.McGuinn, No Child Left Behind and the Transformation of Federal Education Policy, 2006, 4-5