June 5, 1997
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Scrutinize the work of several major Congressional committees in online forums with the chairs and ranking members.
Begin an ongoing dialogue with twelve new members of Congress.
Follow the first year in Congress of Freshmen Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Jay Johnson (D-WI)
Mr. Speaker, the poet Maya Angelo once said a cynical child is one who has made the transition from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
Mr. Speaker, the goal of education is not just to grant knowledge to our students, it is also to give them hope. Sadly, many of our schools today fail on both counts. Yes, it is true that many of our young people today are not able to write words or calculate numbers as they should, but perhaps more profoundly, many of our young people are discouraged and disillusioned. They have lost hope in themselves and they have lost hope in America. That is an American tragedy.
The effects of this tragedy are felt everywhere. We can sense it in our inner cities where crime is rampant and violence is a way of life. We can see it in the eyes of an 18-year-old dropout who has aged far beyond his years and lives life knowing his best years are already over. We can hear it in the voices of thousands of young people, people for whom the promise of America has long since been lost.
These precious young people are the ones who ultimately pay the price when our schools fail. These young people are the victims of schools that have failed them and communities that have given up on them. This is a situation we must and we can do something about.
I believe that no first-class nation can have second-class citizens. But being an optimist, I believe there are also answers. To those parents and students who have been failed by our schools, I say yes, you have lost much but you have not lost everything. To those teachers and principals who are trying to make a difference, I say yes, you are doing many good things, you are building their futures and you are building ours.
Tonight I rise not to condemn American education but to challenge it. I want to challenge teachers to work harder and students to study longer. I want to encourage school administrators, school board members and school principals to create safe environments, better schools, and more creative classrooms. I want to urge moms and dads not just to be parents at home but also partners in the schools.
We can revitalize American education. We have all the necessary ingredients. We have the best teachers in the world and the brightest young minds, if only we can create a climate where teachers and students can do what they do best, teach and learn. I believe we can do that and I know we should. Today more than ever our schools and our children need our help.
When our children head off to college, they need our help even more. Tonight I think help has arrived. Tonight, I am pleased to introduce, along with the gentlewoman from Washington [Ms. Dunn], the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Pitts], the gentleman from Texas [Mr. DeLay], the majority whip, and others, the HELP Act, the Higher Education and Learning Promotion Act.
This legislation is designed to give families an additional option for their $500-per-child tax credit which both the President and the Congress are pledged to support. This historic legislation would allow our families to begin financing higher education through savings instead of debt.
As an incentive to encourage families to save and invest for their children's college education, this legislation would allow parents to invest this child tax credit in an education savings account. These accounts will earn interest tax free and can be withdrawn tax free for their child's education, and families will be able to double the amount of the tax credit if they choose to invest in an education savings account.
This would give families the option of using this tax credit and other savings to help plan for their children's future. A family with two children will be able to invest $1,500 each year for each of their children in an education savings account. That is $3,000 for their children's education.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the HELP Act is an important part of revitalizing American education, and I urge my colleagues to include this important proposal in the upcoming tax relief package for families.
Mr. Speaker, with the help of parents and teachers and the hope of our young people, we can build schools which will train fertile minds, prepare young lives and foster dreams. Our vision is a glorious one, an America where our children are not only well educated but, more importantly, an America where our children believe in themselves and they believe in their country. Mr. Speaker, the future is theirs but the responsibility is ours.