Clinton Initiative Targets Social Promotion PoliciesFebruary 4, 1999 |
by Black Issues
Clinton Initiative Targets Social Promotion Policies
President Bill Clinton wants to give school districts a financial incentive to end the practice of social promotion.
Social promotion involves allowing primary and secondary school children to advance a grade level even if they lack the academic skills to warrant moving forward.
Clinton called for an end to the policy of social promotion and offered schools a powerful incentive — $600 million in new grants for after-school academic programs. The president made the offer as part of an expansion of 21st Century Learning Centers, a relatively new federal program that tries to meet the needs of working parents while providing children with a safe haven after school.
From a modest $1 million beginning, the program grew to $40 million in funding last year and jumped to $200 million in fiscal year 1999. In his recent announcement, Clinton said he would request $600 million for the program in the government’s fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
“Don’t say the kids are failing. Give them after-school programs. Give them summer school programs. Give them the tools they need to succeed,” Clinton says.
Under the president’s plan, schools that agree to eliminate social promotion would receive priority under the 21st Century program. Districts may use these after-school funds to support academic enrichment, recreational outlets, technology education, and even career exploration activities.
“Because of these after-school programs, a million kids will have a better chance,” Clinton says.
The announcement on social promotion was part of a series of White House events designed to lead up to the president’s State of the Union address and the submission of a year 2000 budget in early February. Despite the new after-school funds, however, most education advocates do not expect major new initiatives for education.
Within higher education, only Pell Grants and the new GEAR-UP program are likely to see significant funding increases, says Jamie Pueschel, legislative director for the United States Student Association. Through GEAR-UP, schools and colleges work together on programs that keep at-risk middle school youth on course through college.
But after several years in which Congress enacted new HOPE Scholarships, GEAR-UP, and many small new programs, lawmakers and the White House may take a breather this year. The Clinton administration already has asked for a $12 billion increase in defense spending, something that may crowd out domestic priorities.
“I think it’s going to be pretty grim for higher education this year,” Pueschel said. “There will be little, if any, increase for higher education.”
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