[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 145 (1999), Part 16]
[Senate]
[Pages 22592-22595]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]



    REAUTHORIZING THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT OF 1965

  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I want to comment a bit about education. 
First, let me lay down a predicate about myself. I feel very strongly 
about the need for quality, safe, and drug-free education in America. 
We have lost our edge in education. Our kids are not getting as good an 
education as they should. In fact, I do not think they are getting as 
good an education as we were getting in the fifties and sixties. There 
has unfortunately been a steady decline in our schools. While some 
schools are doing a little better and some scores are, in many areas 
our schools are not what they should be.
  I said three things: Quality, safe, drug-free schools. We have a lot 
of work to do in these areas.
  I will not stand second to any Member of the Senate when it comes to 
feeling strongly about education and advocating on behalf of education, 
but it has to be done in the right way.
  What has happened is the education establishment is firmly entrenched 
in the status quo. They believe that we should stay in this box, and we 
should not change it and, by the way, it should be run from Washington. 
That is not the answer, in my opinion.
  I want to make this clear: While I think we should have choice in 
education, I am a product of public education from the first grade 
through the second, third, and fourth grades where I went to school at 
Duck Hill, MS, and I had better teachers in the second,

[[Page 22593]]

third, and fourth grades in Duck Hill, MS, than I had the rest of my 
life. They were probably better than most people have had in these very 
fancy and better funded schools. Those teachers loved their students. 
They worked hard and taught us the basics. I have never forgotten them, 
and I appreciate what they did.
  I went to public school all the way through college and law school. 
So did my wife, so did my son, and so did my daughter. So when some 
Senators get up and pontificate that we cannot allow students to have 
choice, that we have to save public education--let me be clear, I want 
public education. I want every student, regardless of religion, income 
level, race, sex, or anything else, to get a good education. But the 
tragedy is that that may not always be in a particular school. If a 
public school in your neighborhood is not doing the job, you ought to 
be able to leave.
  Some people say if that happens, the bad schools will fail. Right. It 
is called competition. Produce, give quality education, drug-free and 
safe, or get out of the business.
  To tell students--intelligent students, needy students, poor 
students--they have to go to this school no matter what is wrong. Why 
is it in America that our elementary and secondary education is ranked 
17th in the world and yet our higher education is No. 1 in the world? 
What is the difference? Why are we doing so poorly at the elementary 
and secondary level and doing so well in higher education?
  There are a couple of simple answers. First of all, when you finish 
high school, rich or poor, whatever State you live in, you have a 
choice: You can go to work if you have had vocational education in high 
school, or you can go to additional training. You can go to a community 
college, you can go to a State university, you can go to a parochial 
college, you can go out of State, you can go to Harvard. You get to 
choose what fits your needs. But in elementary and secondary education, 
oh, no, you have to do it the way we tell you in this box. No choice. 
That is one problem.
  The second problem is financial support. I am from a poor, blue-
collar family. When I was in college, I worked and got a loan which, by 
the way, I paid back 1 year after I graduated. I could not have made 
it, though, if I had not been able to work for the university and get 
loans.
  In America--and I hope every student in America and every parent 
hears me now--in America, when every child finishes high school, they 
can get a college education. No doubt about it. Some people say: I come 
from a family with no money. Hey, I was in a family with no money. At 
one point, I had no family. But I got a loan. Other students can get a 
grant or a supplemental grant or a State scholarship, a private 
scholarship. The financial aid is there. Every student can get an 
education in America.
  There is financial aid when you go to college but not when you are in 
elementary and secondary school. Senator Coverdell wants to remedy 
that. He wants to allow parents to save for their children's education 
so that the financial support will be there to choose a different 
school if you want to, to help you with the books, to help you get a 
computer, to help you get a uniform if that is what you need--choice 
and financial opportunity.
  I want to add this: I am the son of a schoolteacher, and I still act 
like one sometimes. At times, my staff brings in a letter which has bad 
grammar. I feel a little guilty, but I start marking on it: This is 
surplus language; this is not correct grammar.
  My mother taught for 19 years. So I care about education. I worked 
for 3 years of my life at the University of Mississippi. I worked in 
the placement office helping students get jobs when they graduated, and 
I worked in the financial aid office. I was the one who added up the 
numbers to see if a student got a grant or a loan. I met with the 
students. I handled the scholarships. The best scholarship in the 
university was a Carrier scholarship. I interviewed the students who 
applied for it.
  When I finished undergraduate school, I worked in the placement 
bureau of the law school to help law students find employment in law 
firms, and I was head of the law alumni association. So I have had 
experience in the academic sphere of the university.
  One of the great things I did for 2 years is I went to every school 
in the State of Mississippi--every one. I met with the students, I 
talked with the teachers, I talked with the guidance counselors. I was 
a member of the State Guidance Counselors Association. I went into 
schools. I actually stood outside and looked at some buildings and 
said: I am not sure I want to go in there; this may fall down.
  I remember the commitment of the teachers. I remember the efforts of 
the guidance counselors. I really believe education was better then 
than it is now, and that is sad. We have to do something about that.
  When some people allege that Republicans do not care about education, 
they don't know what they are talking about. I will put my credentials, 
my background in public education, my feelings about education against 
anybody in this Chamber. Our party, the Republican Party in the Senate, 
has determined that education is our first priority. S. 1, the first 
bill I introduced, improves education. We want full funding for 
education. I want to fund education at the level the President asked 
for and more, if we can find a way to do it.
  But there is a key difference: We want to do it differently.
  I have no confidence whatsoever in this body or in any bureaucrat in 
Washington, DC, to make the right decisions on education--none. The 
teachers, the parents, the students, the communities in Wyoming and in 
Mississippi, know best what those students need. They know their 
students. They know their needs. They know the community. They know 
what they can afford. They know what they can spend. And they do not 
need some nameless, faceless bureaucrat or some Senator from some other 
State telling them: You are to spend it here or spend it there.
  I trust the people; I trust the teachers at the local level. I do not 
trust the unions. I do not trust the Department of Education. I voted 
to make it a separate Department because I thought it was being 
undermined in the old Department it was in; it was gobbled up by other 
things. Maybe I made a mistake. I want to give education a high 
priority, but I do not think this Department up here, inside the 
Beltway, in this administration or in previous administrations, has 
helped education much. They are part of the problem. Let the local 
people make the decisions.
  I want to make this point, too. There are those who say what we need 
is more money. Yes, everybody comes to Washington knocking on the door: 
I need more money. We need bigger Government. That is ridiculous. We 
are wasting too much of the people's money here in Washington, DC. We 
do not need more money in this Government.
  When was the last time any Senator had somebody show up and say: Hey, 
we can do better with less? No. The American people say they want a 
balance. The American people say they want to make sure we do not spend 
the Social Security surplus. But yet then the professional lobbyists 
say: We want more.
  It is all good. I am from an agricultural State. Agriculture wants 
more. I appreciate what the veterans have done for our country. 
Veterans want more. Armed services are important for the future 
security of our families. They need more. We would like to have the 
American dream of having a home available for everybody. Fine. I think 
it ought to be done in the private sector. I think the Department of 
Housing and Urban Development, as a whole, is a miserable failure. I 
could go down every Department, every agency; and I support a lot of 
them.
  I do support ships being built in my hometown of Pascagoula, MS. But 
I do not see a hunk of steel. I see pipe fitters, boilermakers, 
laborers. I see men and women and Indians out there pulling those steel 
lines, running those cranes, and providing for the defense of

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our country. I wanted more money for NASA, but you cannot have it both 
ways.
  One of the interesting things about the resolution that was 
introduced by Senator Kennedy and Senator Daschle here today is --they 
talked about some of the problems in education and that funding should 
be increased in programs right across the board. They want the Federal 
Government to start hiring local teachers --Federal Government 
dictates: There have to be X number of students in a classroom.
  We need more money for afterschool programs, more money for the Safe 
Schools Program, more money for elementary and secondary education--
more money, more money, more money.
  Then it says--this is what is really ingenious--more money for 
everything. And, by the way, ``the Senate should stay within the 
discretionary spending caps and avoid using the resources of the social 
security program by finding discretionary spending offsets that do not 
jeopardize''--great, great.
  If somebody shows up and tells me how we can increase every program 
in the Federal Government and stay within spending limitations, I will 
give them a prize.
  There are those who have a way to do it. It is called more taxes. 
Yes, let's increase taxes--somewhere, someday, user fees. Let's find 
more money to come to Washington.
  We do not need more money in Washington. The people need to keep 
their money back home. The American people are overtaxed. Their taxes 
are too high. They are unfair. They are complicated. When the people 
were told what we had in our tax cut package, they said: Yes, we 
support that.
  But you can't have every nickel you want spent in Washington and have 
fiscal responsibility and have tax relief for working Americans, young 
families, such as my own daughter who just got married in May. She and 
her husband both work because they do not have a lot of money. By the 
way, they are going to pay more in taxes this next year than they did 
the previous year just because they got married. What a ridiculous set 
of circumstances.
  We wonder why we have troubles having the traditional family survive. 
One reason is that you get taxed if you get married, for Heaven's sake.
  In America, you get taxed if you die. When I get to the end of my 
road, after my life's work, I want two things, and that is all. I want 
my name to be decent and clean, and I want my kids to be able to have 
whatever I have earned. I do not want Uncle Sam showing up saying: Give 
me half of it. Nobody of any income level can defend the death tax. It 
is totally ridiculous.
  We have a resolution that I believe is better than what was proposed 
by Senator Daschle and Senator Kennedy. So I send this resolution to 
the desk and ask for it to be printed at this time. I will send it 
forward in a minute.
  Let me just read this resolution into the Record because I think it 
is a good resolution. I want the American people to know what we think 
about education.

       Whereas
       The fiscal year 2000 Budget Resolution [that passed the 
     Congress] increases--

  Hear me now--

     education funding by $28 billion over the next five years, 
     and $82 billion over the next ten years.

  We are not stingy when it comes to education. Our budget resolution 
says we are going to have more:

       The Department of Education received a net increase of $2.4 
     billion in FY 2000 which doubles the President's request.

  I do not understand what Senator Kennedy and Senator Daschle are 
talking about.

       Compared to the President's requested levels, the 
     Democratically controlled Congress' appropriations for 1993-
     1995 reduced the President's funding requests by $3.0 
     billion.

  The Democrat Congress reduced the President's request for education 
by $3 billion.

       Since Republicans took control of Congress, federal 
     education funding has increased by 27%.

  Maybe 100 percent would be better, but we are doing the job. We need 
a little credit for what we have been doing.

       In the past three years, the Congress has increased funding 
     for Part B of [the IDEA program]--

  Where we have made a commitment, fulfilled over a period of years--

     by nearly 80%, while the Administration's fiscal year 2000 
     budget only requested a .07% increase which is less than an 
     adjustment for inflation.

  Remember what happens. Schools are being told by the Federal 
Government: You must comply with IDEA. You must provide the special 
education. The schools are saying: But if we spend that money and you 
do not do your share, it means we have to take from somewhere else.
  The most difficult thing the schools across this country are having 
to deal with is complying with special education requirements and the 
Federal Government not doing its share. That is what our resolution 
focuses on. We should give schools the flexibility to use this money to 
comply with IDEA or use it in other areas.

       Congress is not only providing the necessary funds, but is 
     also reforming our current education programs. Congress 
     recognizes that significant reforms are needed in light of 
     the following troubling statistics:
       40% of fourth graders cannot read at the most basic level.
       In international comparisons, U.S. twelfth graders scored 
     near the bottom in both math and science.
       70% of children in high poverty schools score below even 
     the most basic level of reading.
       In math, 9 year olds in high poverty schools remain two 
     grade levels behind students in low poverty schools.
       Earlier this year, the 106th Congress took the first step 
     toward improving our nation's schools by passing the 
     Education, Flexibility and Partnership Act . . .

  Really simple: We just allow the schools at the local level to make 
the decisions where to spend all this Federal money that is going to be 
available to them. Really simple. It will work. And the teachers and 
the Governors and the parents say, yes, that makes sense.

       This year's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary 
     Education Act will focus on increasing student achievement by 
     empowering principals, local school boards, teachers, and 
     parents. The focus should be on raising the achievement of 
     all students.

  In other words, we say: We are going to give you the flexibility, but 
we expect results. You are going to have to show some results.
  Also:

       Congress should reject a one-size-fits-all approach to 
     education.

  What is good in Boston, MA, just may not be good in Boise, ID, or in 
Laramie, WY, or certainly not good in Pascagoula, MS. We have different 
needs. We ought to have that flexibility to address the needs we do 
have.

       Parents are the first and best educators of their children. 
     We have to find ways for the Congress to support proposals 
     which provide parents greater, not less, control and input 
     into the unique educational opportunities we want for our 
     children.
       Every child should have an exceptional teacher in the 
     classroom.

  We have a program in Mississippi--I am trying to remember who did 
it--but a philanthropist gave every classroom in Mississippi, or at 
least every school, a computer. I was talking to a local educator 
recently. He said: That's real nice, but in many of those schools, 
those computers are still sitting in the boxes in the hallways or in 
the backs of the rooms because the teachers don't know how to use the 
computers, let alone how to teach the use of the computers.
  Technology is great. We have to make sure, though, that the teachers 
have the ability or at least can be trained or have access to training 
so they can use the modern technology.
  Our whereas goes on. It just says that Congress will continue its 
efforts to improve the Nation's schools by reauthorizing the Elementary 
and Secondary Education Act, guided by the principles I have been 
referring to above; that is, more flexibility, more control by the 
teachers and the school boards, and more involvement by the parents.
  We feel very strongly about this. The Democrats say: We will provide 
100,000 teachers, hired by the Federal Government, and we want to start 
repairing roofs.
  The quality of the buildings themselves and repairing roofs are a 
local

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issue. The Federal Government should not be doing that. While others 
will say, well, wait a minute, we need to help these schools and these 
States in repairing buildings, where does it end? If we proceed down 
the road where we start paying for building schools at the local level, 
we will have to build every school in America. That is where it will 
end. Sure, it is nice; people like it.
  Let me tell my colleagues about the States. Every single State in the 
Nation has a surplus, more than they are going to spend. You say, well, 
maybe it is not much. It is almost $34 billion. If you have dilapidated 
schools in your State, I say: State, fix them. The Federal Government, 
Uncle Sop, is not going to pay for repairing roofs in Biloxi, MS. Let 
the people in Biloxi, in the State of Mississippi, do that. I am for 
it. I am for teacher pay raises, but the answer is not in this hallowed 
city that we stand. The answer is with the American people. I believe 
that. Give them the flexibility. When Senator Kennedy said, basically, 
what we want is for Washington to run the schools, frankly, a bad 
situation could be worse. The Federal Government would mess it up.
  So we have an alternative. We will be debating it again on Monday. I 
believe our alternative will pass. It should pass. But I am telling you 
right now, I am telling the President of the United States, William 
Jefferson Clinton, and I am telling everybody in this Senate, when it 
comes to education, Trent Lott is not going to yield to anybody, and 
the Republicans in Congress are not going to be run over by a bunch of 
additional Federal programs that will waste the money, should not be 
our responsibility, and will not get the job done. We are going to make 
it flexible. We are going to make it local.
  This is going to be an interesting debate. I can tell you one thing: 
I am going to be at the debate because I am going to be involved in 
this. I care about it, and I know what will work, and I know what won't 
work. What we have is not working. We have to do it differently.
  I beg the pardon of my colleagues for getting fired up and going on a 
little long, but I am not going to let those sorts of things be said on 
the floor of the Senate on education without an adequate response.
  I yield the floor, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The resolution will be received and 
appropriately referred.
  The Chair recognizes the Senator from Georgia.

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