Focus on Education with Governor Bill Clinton
Three things that happen at once we have people who want to consolidate. I can tell you three because I thought it would provide more. Governor let's talk more about consolidation of school districts consolidate in Arkansas by June 1st they receive incentive money in our figures that come from the State Education Department to finance division show that so far the state is spent 18 million dollars on this incentive money now as a layman that seems to me like a great deal of money. Has it been well spent in your opinion. Well I think it was worth it to get the incentives in there to consolidate them. I wish that more had done it because over the long run it would save money if you could just in terms of getting more education for fewer dollars. Keep in mind you're talking about 80 million out of a budget that exceeds seven hundred men. So yes I would say on balance it's been worth doing. The criticism on consolidation is that many of the administrators within the Consolidated districts are able to keep their jobs and what you're actually doing is building a larger bureaucracy where many of the teachers of either
had to find new jobs or have been relocated. Has there been any work in the area of reform in the area at the administrative level during these consolidations. Well what I would like first of all I'm not sure that's right I mean I asked our education department if they had figures which indicated that all the administrators had been saving a bunch of the teachers had been let go and they were skeptical that that was widespread phenomenon. I think you know that's that's what I think you've got a local school board and a citizen input for to to stop that sort of thing. They shouldn't be hiring people if they don't need them. But you have to have some measure of local control for the last two or three years for the first time. We have been requiring districts to report to us. There were many straight of an extra curricular cost as a percentage of their overall spending and after but next time the legislature meets we should have enough evidence historical evidence would be able to chart it over time to see which districts
or excessive in their administrative cost and then we can penalize them for. And I'd like to do that because I think we do spend our administrative cost per student probably higher than they should be. But sooner or later the people at the local level are going to have to assume responsibility for this. I mean they're going to have you know that the voters who have to vote their milage up to meet the school standards whose legislators have to give the money to the schools to meet the school stands. Also let local school board members whom who make every single decision which is made. Nobody made them hire any administrators which who are needed and that you can't make all these decisions at the state level in the governor's office department education cannot make all these decisions you have some local control over the districts. And the question of whether a manager should be retained and what pay is classically a decision which should be made by the local district once they can meet the minimal standards. But I
think it's something that if if I were a citizen. In any school district in the state I'd want to know that the money was going to the most efficient way and the administrative costs would be minimized parking so rings 40 nights nationally and expenditures per public school student and we're also 49 in teacher salaries. As a parent of two school aged children next year. These figures disturb me because I am a parent and because they seem to be the same statistics I remember when I was in grade school in Arkansas schools. Are we ever going to be able to improve on this. Well first of all we have improved. Last number I saw show that we were 40 not the salaries and 40 15 per capita spending we 47 per capita income. And we have had huge increases in education in the last four years. Huge increases. But it's just what I try to tell the rest of the country figured out I have to do this too. So if everybody moves
forward at the same time and they have an income advantage over us and their taxes are higher than ours are they're going to be we're not will be able to catch up and lower ranking. But I'd like to meet you gotta look behind those numbers when we started the school reform program in eighty three. Our teachers were making 73 percent and I still average pay today either 83 percent. That's a real measure which shows that we've made a significant effort. We changed the law to require 70 percent of all state and local investment to go to teacher pay. We have dramatically increased retirement and health insurance and other benefits and last year I had a study done which puts salaries plus benefits which indicated that when you added benefits and salaries all income real income to teachers we were forty third which is not bad if we're 40 70 per capita income. And so I think if you look at the real what's the march of progress look at what happened in the test scores look at what's happened in the in the class sizes look what happens when we go from 56 to
96 percent of the class schools offering physics and the same number in chemistry and language and in math advanced math and arts and sciences. I think the progress has been dramatic. But the reason the numbers are down there is because we have a fairly low per capita income. We have we have a very great aversion to taxes whereas you've got a state like Minnesota with a low unemployment rate and a sort of a different heritage a Scandinavian heritage where they think their taxes ought to be higher you got a state like Iowa which is a lot like Arkansas where the farmers want their farm taxes to be higher for education. We have a different attitude about that but our people have overcome it a lot with 80 percent of school districts have raised their property taxes. So I just I think that if you look at the real progress. In the teeth of all these terrible farm economic problems I think that every Arkansan should be deeply encouraged. But I also think if anybody thinks we can just sit around and say well look at all this effort we've made without
getting burned and let the thing deteriorate that's a terrible mistake because the other states are all moving forward and wondering also if we run the risk of rationalizing why our figures are low at times and making excuses for why we rank in the know there but the point is that every state in the country is more or less consistent with its per capita income where the weather expenditures are our state tax burden is is pretty high. But that's because our local tax burden has always been very low. Well before we start the school reform program Arkansas I think had the third or the second lowest per capita property taxes in America. And even as late as last year our per capita tax burden was next to lowest. And even when you make adjustments for our per capita income being low there are only five states which have lower per capita taxes than we are that is taxes as a percent of income.
So if we think we're going to there's no mystery about this. If we think we're going to catch up in education without investing more money in it. I mean if you keep holding back on the money then every year the number will be 40 nights it'll be whatever your per capita income is. That's where it'll be now we did succeed the last numbers I saw said upper capita income was forty seven. Our per capita spending our spending for student was forty fifth which is good. Our teacher pay was still forty ninth even though as a percentage of the national average it had increased dramatically from 73 to 83. And the reason it was 40 not there were the following reasons. We have three hundred thirty school districts. So we have to hire more teachers to meet the school standards in the upper grades and we have gone harder than most states have for smaller classes in the early grades and for elementary counselors facts rather than rationale. Yeah those are facts but you can't make money come out of thin air. So I think to some extent what I would like to see I wish I think a reasonable effort on a financial
just in purely financial terms would be to see our per capita spending on students and our teacher pay which I think has to include all the fringe benefits you got I can't just say that retirement and health and life insurance and all that and can't because that costs money too. And the states which don't spend money on that put it into play and then they run their numbers up they look better than we are even though the teachers might be better off for the friends benefits. But I think both per capita spending for student per capita student spend excuse me and teacher pay should be higher than our per capita income. If we do that that shows we're making an above average effort then I think after over and above that what you want to do is judge us on what really matters in terms of how the kids are learning. Look at what we've done with the coarsest look what's happened to the test scores look what happened to the dropout rate. I mean the teachers are doing a good job I think out there under adverse circumstances. So I don't think you're making
excuses The point is you've got to understand how much of those numbers which you don't like are inevitable. What can be changed about it and then look at the good side of the numbers I mean the truth is an enormous amount of progress have been made in the last four years. We're in danger of losing some of it in higher education which I regret very much. Let's talk about higher education in our remaining time. A lot of attention has been focused on public school education in Arkansas recently. But in that regard have we had a tendency to overlook higher education and we've been hearing a lot about their financial needs what are their needs right now. Well. I think that we have an over look at the legislature and I tried to include higher education in the education reform package and higher education got 24 cents approximately of the of the money which was raised 24 percent are 24 cents on the dollar of the money was raised in sales tax 93 in the last campaign you remember my opponent Frank quite roundly attacked me for that he said I should have given higher
education a penny we should have put it on the public schools if we had there'd been no need for property taxes in the rural areas which was literally true I guess they would have there would have been fewer property tax increases required there would have been a number of would've had to come anyway. But we also would have been shooting ourselves in the foot I mean you cannot draw dividing lines so we're going have a first class school system K through 12 and we don't give a rip about what half the vocational education or higher education. If you look at the states which are doing well almost without exception they are states which have a higher percentage of their kids going to college where the poor and working class kids can go to college. And where the college and university activities the research activities the development activities are tied very closely to business activity in the state so that higher education is making a contribution to economic development. We have made on the normal amount of progress on that in Arkansas in the aftermath of the sales tax increase.
So we had three good years 83 84 84 85 85 86 were good years. But. The slowdown started last year and this year it's been very very tough in higher education and the legislature not the Senate the House said that it would suit them if it had another year or two where they essentially got no more money their costs were going up. If all the good teachers leave you know I mean just give you an example we had just one example we had one of the strongest opponents of any tax increases last time was a legislator who represents the poultry Federation. Now the poultry Federation calls all upset because there's a professor at the University of Fayetteville who's the preeminent scholar in that area in the United States and he's not going to be able to study because we don't give him any money. I mean it's a chicken and egg deal if you know this is a kid. Is that all about poultry. Maybe sooner or later we're going to have to reconcile these things we're either going to invest and be competitive in higher education
or we're going to say it's just not very important to us. And if it's not we're going to pay an enormous economic price if the future of Arkansas rests with that young people and we're talking about budget cuts intuition increases and possible reductions in financial aid. Are you concerned that some of our prospective college students are going to start leaving the state probably not wanting to return later on. Yes even more important is not going to school. You know you're going to have some leave but but we've got more and more of our best kids to come in. We've got these gov scholarships and other things to induce good Arkansas students to go to school in Arkansas. But what's going to happen if the present situation continues. Before we raise tuition I've always supported the tuition increases because before because you can't have to ration too low and it's OK to work your way through school if you find a job out there that a lot of other people do. But we have tried to increase tuition and then we increase tuition increase loans and scholarships by a commensurate amount so that the kids can afford the tuition increase could offset it was scholarships and loans
were not going to do that this time you're looking at these huge tuition increases. And the net impact is going to be to run people off and most them won't go out of state this will go. There are a lot of schools in Arkansas that are located in towns where you can't have all the kids getting jobs or just aren't that many jobs. And I am very concerned about it. I think let me just give you some numbers that are good numbers. When we started the school reform program 38 percent of our high school seniors were going to college. Last year it was up to 43 percent. The national average is 50 percent. A student with a college degree is more than four times more likely to be employed in today's economy than student drops out of high school to 11th grade more than four times more. If we could get our college going right up to the national average it would have a big impact on the Arkansas economy on the unemployment rate and the future of the state. If we just raise tuition and then put the screws to the budget of the colleges and universities it's going to compromise our economic future and we're making a big mistake to do Arkansas does not
rank high when compared to other states in the number of its high school graduates going on to college. We're going to focus on that issue later this evening good in a documentary narrated by your wife by the way. But this in your opinion should be a high priority. Absolutely. And everybody I mean I know for example here's a problem for the legislators House Representatives. Big problem for me. There's another thing that in my district there are 10 percent of the people with college degrees who vote they may vote me out. Point we need to hammer home is what we need. It's an attitude issue again. If the people who don't have college degrees really understand the importance of these institutions not only to the young people but to the economic future of the whole state. Then they would see it is in their interest to see that we at least adequately finance it. I'm not talking about bathing them in riches I'm just talking about giving them enough money to avoid big tuition increases to keep the best faculty teaching and to do more to interconnect with the emerging
Arkansas economy with the problems now faced by our state supported colleges and universities can they be fixed with Band-Aid financial remedies. What is it going to take to get them back Oh sure in financial ground. Well they had a nice boost back in 83 with this when we raise the sales tax. And if we'd had ordinary revenue growth they'd be doing pretty well now. What happened is that the state tax revenues have hit the skids because we continue to have growth here in urban park and saw in the central part of the state little rocking around and in northwest Arkansas western Arkansas. But in the farming in temperate all and gas areas and some of the manufacturing rural towns you've got an actual decline in tax revenues to help the economy would fix a lot of things there. If we had a healthy economy we would be Center talking about this. And the point is and here's the number one idea. This is the idea over which the contest is waged. I was in the last session will be in a special session. Because an unhealthy economy from
the point of view new tax revenues has created this situation. Flat revenues big increase in cost of Prisons big increase in cost and health care programs for the elderly the disabled and others. Which means we have to shrink everybody else's piece of the pie. Do we just tighten our belt like we always have in the past or do we do something different because the dynamic of the time is that we are changing and if we don't change with the economy we're going to get behind and we're going to get further and further behind. We're going to go down hill that's my idea my idea is that even though it's tough we still have to raise a little more money to continue our progress in education. Otherwise we're compromising our economic future and that is the idea. This is a contest of ideas it's not whether I put enough squeeze on the legislature or something there's no funny business going on here. It's a contest of ideas. And if enough people agree with my view it will prevail and if they don't we're going to have a tough time. A final point you said in your inaugural address that what Arkansas is children and what Arkansas people need
are good beginnings good schools and good jobs with all the frustrations that you've had since January during the legislative session and the frustrations that have gone along with trying to get your education programs through. Can we still provide children with those things that you said you wanted to give them. Absolutely. Another thing I want our people to believe we get a little hangdog sometimes we're always too willing to sort of say well this poor Arkansas what he expect is just you know I just get sick of hearing that. The truth is that our state is outperforming most of the other states in this region economically. We're doing better than this is zippy Louisiana Oklahoma and Texas and diversifying our economy. Everything that's wrong with Arkansas today is purely and simply a function of the way our state's been affected by big international economic trends and national politics. Pure and simple. But we can do something about it. What we can do about it is education aggressive economic recruitment good transportation
infrastructure and taking care of these kids from the time they're born let's get into kindergarten these poor kids that otherwise don't have good health care. That's what we're trying to do. And it's not that expensive. But if we think we can do it for nothing we're sadly mistaken. Governor thank you very much. Thanks. And thank you for joining us on focus on education with Governor Bill Clinton. I'm Larry Foley. Good evening. Let's just sit here while they roll some of that. Did you think that way. Great Oh well that's on some decent points. We're probably getting on for a little while longer. OK I'm glad you did it. I hope we get a lot of people watching. Well we're going to promote it. People are so frustrated I mean the higher education community they're so frustrated and they're looking for some simple little explanation it's not can't wave your magic wand fix the economy. No it's a it is a contest of ideas and it's a battle of ideas in the legislature and it's a battle
of ideas back home. And it's very hard on the horrid kids front after people raise their property taxes and they see the in the rural areas the economy dwindling and they send their legislators up here. It's hard for them to say that they should pay a little more to ship the money to Fayetteville in Little Rock where they perceive that the economy is booming the people are living better than they are. Other words what you've got to do is get out of seeing it in that perspective and see what the where the economy's going and what you've got to do. And it's a it's a contest of ideas. OK guys you want some more shots Mike. You know unfortunately at times 18 success is measured by the amount of money it generates so much fund raising campaigns which isn't really the whole picture. And again that falls back on to to a large degree on the economy. People just don't have as much money to play just they they did a couple years ago
and we have to face that burden and you know I think the colleges universities do too I just think that they're being overburdened. All I'm trying to do is to strike a proper balance so that they can go on and do what they have to I got a letter in there from a guy out of there let me see if I got the story I want to get it. I've asked a college and university people to write me you know so I can turn sort of disseminate some of that. It's just it's tough on you. I've heard about a position that Hinrichs their income wait a friend of mine works over there in that the number of applications it wasn't that high of a position with the number of applications that he were seen Ph.D.s all over the state of Arkansas wanting to go to Hinrichs because as a private institution they were locked into the same situation as in the state supported schools were and he just was. His mind was boggled by the number of applications for a position like that you know and he could relate to was stressed on some other very closely at universities
and one of the problems that's really working all those people now is that the conditions are not uniform. Like let me just give you. Even in Texas as bad a shape as a lot of schools are in the bigger schools like I am and University of Texas even though the ore prices have plummeted you know their endowments and their income from service tax are still so great that they can outbid us among the highest in the country. Texas and I say to you so what the university needs frankly I mean and I've talked with I've talked to some of the people that I was on telephone with them what the university needs isn't and I mean a really big and down at the university.
- Raw Footage
- Focus on Education with Governor Bill Clinton
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- Arkansas Educational TV Network (Conway, Arkansas)
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- Raw footage of an interview with Governor Bill Clinton in which he discusses education reform, particularly in the context of Arkansas' economy and national rankings, as well as the need for increased state funding of higher education.
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- Raw Footage
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Interviewee: Clinton, Bill, 1946-
Interviewer: Foley, Larry
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Arkansas Educational TV Network (AETN)
Identifier: 1387 (Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) Production Video Library (PVL))
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- Chicago: “Focus on Education with Governor Bill Clinton,” 1987-05-06, Arkansas Educational TV Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-111-53wstzp5.
- MLA: “Focus on Education with Governor Bill Clinton.” 1987-05-06. Arkansas Educational TV Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-111-53wstzp5>.
- APA: Focus on Education with Governor Bill Clinton. Boston, MA: Arkansas Educational TV Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-111-53wstzp5