WIMBLEDON, England President Clinton, bemoaning what he said were too many overcrowded and crumbling schools, pledged Saturday not to budge from budget talks until Republicans set aside billions for school construction and his education priorities.
He also released a Department of Education study showing that at least 60 percent of schools in the country need repairs and that the work would cost an estimated $127 billion.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton took aim at the GOP-controlled Congress: "Every day they stall is another day our children are forced to go to school in trailers, overcrowded classrooms and crumbling buildings. It's hard for students to lift themselves up in schools that are falling down," the president said.
"We're not going to leave the (negotiating) table until we invest in modernizing our schools and continue our efforts to hire 100,000 quality teachers for smaller classes," Clinton said.
The president supports legislation sponsored by Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., to subsidize $24.8 billion in school construction bonds; the federal government would provide tax credits for the interest normally paid on a bond.
Under the proposal, 60 percent of the money would go to states based on school-age population, with the rest directed to the 125 school districts with the largest number of low-income students. The estimated five-year cost is $1.74 billion.
The bill has 228 co-sponsors, a majority.
Some Republicans oppose any new program that mandates how schools spend federal money, and believe the plan would increase the federal bureaucracy and control over local schools.
Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, faulted Clinton for a "red-tape approach" and costs would rise by 15 percent under a requirement to pay prevailing wage rates, as demanded by labor unions.