President Clinton and Republicans squared off yesterday on issues they see as winning ones for the 2000 campaign: The president appealed to parents with his plan for more teachers and smaller classes while a popular governor touted GOP success at cutting taxes.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton announced $1.2 billion in grants to hire 30,000 teachers for the new school year. Congress approved the program with bipartisan support last year, when lawmakers were up for reelection.
This year, Clinton said, "unfortunately there are some in Congress who are backing away from their commitment to reduce class size" with financing for 100,000 new teachers. Clinton has asked Congress for $12 billion over seven years to pay for those new teachers.
"I think a promise made in an election year should be kept in the years when there are no elections," he said.
"In far too many of our schools, 30 or more students are pressed desk-to-desk in a single classroom," Clinton said. And teachers spend too much time maintaining order.
Michigan Gov. John Engler gave the weekly GOP address, which spotlighted the efforts of the 31 GOP governors to cut taxes, improve education and streamline government.
Four years ago, the average American had to work until July 2 to cover taxes and the cost of government regulation, Engler said. He said the date this year fell on June 22 and credited GOP governors with shortening the time period by 11 days.
"And just as important, GOP governors are reforming welfare and fixing our public schools so taxpayers get more for their money, more families can escape poverty and more children can get a high-quality education."
Engler also took a dig at the president's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considering running for the Senate from New York, a state where Engler said Republican Gov. George E. Pataki has signed 36 tax cuts into law.
"As Governor Pataki puts it, New York has gotten so much better with Republican leadership, first lady Hillary Clinton is thinking of moving there," Engler said.
When he taped his radio speech Friday, Engler changed a line in his prepared text -- promising governors would "work hard to help elect a Republican president to help us get the job done" -- to read:
"We're working hard to tell all Americans about the differences Republican governors are making in state after state."