Improving America Through National Service: Urging Congress to to Reauthorize AmeriCorps (10/11/00)
Today, President Clinton will address hundreds of AmeriCorps volunteers in Philadelphia and will urge Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps and other vital national service programs before their session adjourns. In the past six years since the inauguration of AmeriCorps, nearly 200,000 AmeriCorps members have served our nation by building homes, responding to natural disasters, helping to make our streets safer, and tutoring in schools. The President will release findings from a new independent study showing that AmeriCorps' reading tutors are making a major difference in student reading achievement and affirms that we must do all we can to ensure AmeriCorps members continue to have the opportunity to serve their communities.
AMERICORPS VOLUNTEERS ARE GETTING THINGS DONE FOR AMERICA. President Clinton's signature national service program, AmeriCorps, is part of a long bipartisan tradition of service. Today, the Corporation for National Service supports the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Points of Light Foundation, General Powell's America's Promise, as well as AmeriCorps. Since the inception of AmeriCorps in 1994, AmeriCorps members have tutored and mentored millions of children; established or expanded thousands of neighborhood safety patrols; helped build or rehabilitate thousands of homes; and helped communities rebuild after dozens of natural disasters in more than 30 states, including the recent fires in Montana and Colorado. AmeriCorps also provides trained, dedicated people to help nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA and the American Red Cross. In exchange for their service, AmeriCorps members are eligible to receive educational awards that help pay for college, job training, or pay back student loans. To date, AmeriCorps members have qualified for more than $400 million in education awards.
AMERICORPS AND OTHER VITAL NATIONAL SERVICE PROGRAMS MUST BE REAUTHORIZED. The reauthorization of AmeriCorps has wide-ranging support. Recently, 49 of the nation's 50 governors sent a letter urging Congress to renew AmeriCorps and other national service programs, stating, "As Governors, we recognize the value of national service as a tool in meeting important needs in our states. We do not want to lose this force for good in our communities, states, and country." The National and Community Service Amendments Act of 2000 would reauthorize the Corporation for National and Community Service and its major service programs for five years, and strengthen our nation's commitment to national service by enabling these programs to build on the far-reaching benefits they have provided. In addition, the reauthorization would expand AmeriCorps to include an E-Corps of volunteers working to close the digital divide.
AMERICORPS READING TUTORS HELPING CHILDREN LEARN TO READ. In 1996, the President issued the "America Reads Challenge" to help every child learn to read well and independently by the end of the third grade, and called for an army of trained reading tutors to join forces with parents, teachers, and reading specialists to help achieve this goal. AmeriCorps members, VISTA volunteers, and Foster Grandparents all heeded the President's call to action and have since taught, tutored, or mentored nearly one million children learning to read. Today, the President will announce the preliminary results of a national study that shows that AmeriCorps members are making a difference in helping the students they work with improve their reading skills. This independent study, conducted by ABT Associates Inc., surveyed hundreds of AmeriCorps reading tutors and thousands of children learning to read, and concluded that in every instance these tutors are making a major difference. In fact, the children involved in the study improved their reading abilities more than the gain expected for similarly situated children at their grade level. Many of these students started out in the tutoring programs well below grade level and by year-end, students closed the gap and were reading at or near the grade-level expectation. President Clinton urged Congress to reauthorize funding to support programs like the AmeriCorps reading tutors in addition to his call to enact other critical education reforms to improve reading,including smaller class-size, teacher quality, and more after-school