THE nation's governors, worried that America is lagging behind
other countries, are trying to invent a new education system for the
By the year 2000, reforms being launched this week by the
governors could affect every school child in the country.
Gathered here for the 82nd annual meeting of the National
Governors' Association, the governors warn that sweeping reforms are
essential because America's schools are failing badly. Too many
children are dropping out before graduation.
Pupils' skills in math, science, and writing are falling behind
those of Japan and Europe.
Gov. Bill Clinton (D) of Arkansas says: "Despite all the efforts
that have been made in ... the '80s to invest more money, raise
standards, and start new programs in education, we still face a
Governor Clinton says many Americans doubt that the United States
can meet the new challenges of global competition. They believe
America's educational potential is limited by its racial and
cultural diversity, low incomes, or regional problems.
"We still have too many people today who are running up against
the limits of their attitudes long before they run up against the
limits of their aptitudes," Clinton says.
The meeting here is building on progress made in February when
President Bush and the governors agreed on six national education
goals - including one that calls for making American students "first
in the world in math and science" by the year 2000.
The states can't do that job alone, however, so the governors
hope to draw the White House and Congress into the task.
By September 1991, they promise to begin issuing regular
education report cards on all 50 states - monitoring progress or
failure in a wide range of subjects.
Governor after governor here emphasizes that they got into the
debate over education because the nation's prosperity depends on it.
Gov. Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa, chairman of the Governors'
Association, calls education "the cornerstone of the future."
Education reform was a popular topic in the 1980s. But it was the
educational summit between the governors and Mr. Bush in
Charlottesville, Va., in September 1989, that gave reformers real
momentum. That was followed by the February agreement on six goals.
Besides world leadership in math and science, those goals include
boosting the high school graduation rate to 90 percent, improving
early childhood education, improving competence in English, history,
and geography, increasing adult literacy, and ridding schools of
drugs and violence. …