August 14, 1996
By Yolanda Reynolds
Photos by Mary J. Andrade
U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to an estimated 3,000 San Joseans at the John Muir Middle School in San Jose last Wednesday. The group that gathered to hear the President began arriving at the school as early as 2 p.m., even though the President was not scheduled to speak until 5 p.m.
As the afternoon program progressed, it was apparent that the visit to the school was intended to highlight a project that reﬂected the administration’s interest in engaging business, parents, and the community in general, along with the educational professionals their direct involvement in the educational process of today’s youth.
Mariana Dominguez a senior at nearby Pioneer High School described a special program, The River Alliance Partnership, an alliance of parents, teachers, students, and business designed to improve the quality of the educational experience that they had been provided to students enrolled in the five science magnet schools of the San Jose Uniﬁed School District, including John Muir Middle School and Pioneer High School.
Dominguez explained the important role of Joint Venture/Silicon Valley, a primarily electronic business based organization, that is dedicated to addressing community issues. This group whose executive director is the former Republican California State Senator Rebecca Morgan, has directed the organization’s attention to the preparation and education of the Valley’s youth in order to acquire the skills necessary for the continued – success of that industry. The electronic industry is very competitive and requires sophisticated scientiﬁc and technical skills, while it also provides impressive ﬁnancial rewards and opportunities to those who are academically well prepared to work in the industry or related industries.
Lt. Governor Gray Davis pointed out that the current Washington administration has “reestablished the value of education as no other modern president had done.”
Davis reminded the audience of a recent visit to California, when President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore helped in a day long statewide volunteer effort to make computers accessible to students and teachers in many schools previously without such capabilities. Last fall 20,000 people volunteered to help wire schools across the state that Saturday.
President Clinton said that many people believe that “everyone has an opportunity to succeed” —“but”, he said, “an opportunity only exists if you are capable of taking advantage of it”. He added, “education closes that gap between opportunity and reality.”
President Clinton’s visit to John Muir, a middle school, emphasized the importance of an educated citizenry in assuring a prosperous future for the nation.
In reference to student dropout rates and the poor academic preparation for too many students in too many California schools, Gray Davis pointed out that people can demand improvement. He reminded the audience that. “we have been able to stop smoking in front of others who do not smoke — we have been able to reduce the numbers of people who dare to drive while drunk —we can (also) make education front and center for our children!”
A parent, an industry businessman and a John Muir graduate, Larry Kubo, expressed the value of the Alliance of which he was a participant. He pointed out that it took time to move the Alliance forward because of the differing viewpoints of the various sectors of a school community. He said, “teachers aren’t business minded, business people don’t speak or understand the language used by educators, and parents are very busy trying to raise and provide for their families.” He added that, after a while the Alliance membership began to understand each other and that real progress was made.
President Clinton pointed out that “if we work together we will do fine.” The President reminded the audience that the nation’s economy is doing well and, because of that, he had been able to reduce the nation’s deficit, adding that more must be done to include more people in these good economic times. For some, the President’s recent acceptance of a Republican drafted welfare reform program was a great disappointment. One young man, told this writer that when he heard that the President had not vetoed this bill, “I just sat down and cried.”
The Welfare “reform” legislation limits welfare recipients to a life-time total of ﬁve years. It also deprives welfare status to the children of undocumented residents. The rammiﬁcations of this legislation to the health of the broader community and the potential for increased crime caused by desperation, are not yet known.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Jim Beall spent several minutes with the President and handed him a prepared statement in which he stated, “On Thursday, August 8 County Supervisors statewide joined together in
Sacramento at 1pm in room 1190 of the State Capitol to discuss the recent Welfare Reform legislation and its local impact. After more than 18 months of debate over the destiny of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), President Clinton announced his support last week for the Welfare Reform legislation proposed by Congress. The proposed legislation as it pertains to legal immigrants will severely impact Santa Clara County. Of the 158,000 aid recipients, approximately 20% will not qualify for aid as of January 1,1997. For example, if only 10,000 recipients shift to the County funded General Assistance Program at a cost of $200.00 per person, the cost impact will be $24 million dollars to the county. Although booming economic factors eased the caseload by 5% in the past budget cycle in Santa Clara County, the changes in the new legislation will negate the shift.
Another major component of the legislation is to allocate block grants to each state and allow the state to set the rules for allocation. Counties had unsuccessfully lobbied for a more ﬂexible bill, allowing for each county to tailor an aid program based on their specific economic conditions, labor forces, and demographic factors. Furthermore, by block-granting, local governments will have to bear the cost shift of providing necessary service without additional funding. ‘Without funding, we will have to carry the State’s weight on our already tight budgets’ says Santa Clara County Supervisor Jim Beall. “Two-thirds of AFDC recipients are children and it is not responsible for a government to balance its books at the cost of denying kids food, shelter and clothing” adds Beall.
In Santa Clara County, community leaders have formed a task force known as Re-thinking Public Assistance headed by Supervisor Beall, which intends to use the local economic boom to shift people from receiving aid into jobs and provide aid recipients with the necessary skills to stay at work. “The problem does not go away with the proposed federal solution. Those who are denied aid will end up homeless either in shelters or other forms of unstable housing, possibly without food, without access to job training and ultimately in the streets. As far as local government is concerned, the battle now is with the state” says Beall, who is also a member of the California State Association of Counties.
The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) is hosting this press conference to provide a statewide perspective. Supervisors from Alameda County, Glenn County, Yolo County, Los Angeles County, Sacramento County, San Benito County, San Luis Obispo County and Shasta County have been invited to provide information from their respective counties. You may call Christina Cushaw, director of Public Affairs of CSAC at 916-327 7530 for additional information.”
President Clinton, referring to the intriguing reports that scientists had found evidence of life in a rock thought to have come from Mars, stated that such scientific advances came about because of the efforts of many individuals. He announced the administration’s support for continued space exploration and pointed out that in this and similar projects “we don’t have a person to waste.”
It was obvious that the President, who is running for reelection to the Presidency, is using this opportunity to highlight programs that his administration has supported with federal grants to foster demonstration projects that can serve to inspire similar projects across the nation.
Education, youth and family issues are very important for San Joseans and were some of the very important reasons that former County Supervisor Zoe Lofgren was elected to represent them in Congress.
President Clinton pointed out that “people are amazing, if you have high expectations of them they will perform as expected.” His hope fullness for the nation’s future should be realized since he and other leaders also have high expectations that the nation’s citizens will work together to make sure “all children can learn” in order to take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer them.
For more information on legislation and issues under discussion in Washington contact local representatives Zoe Lofgren at 271-8700 or Tom Campbell at 371-7337.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has scheduled a town meeting in front of Lucky Supermarket at the corner of Aborn and White at 5 p.m., August 14. © La Oferta Newspaper.