Wednesday, January 7, 1998
From the day we took office, President Clinton and I have had an unshakable commitment to making the toughest job in the world -- being a parent -- easier for working Americans. And in these past five years, we have achieved an enormous amount for those who are balancing the demands of work and family.
Family and Medical Leave has let millions of parents take time off from work to care for their children. We expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit and increased the minimum wage --so that no parent working full-time has to raise their children in poverty. We expanded Head Start, and created Early Head Start. We opened the doors to education wider than ever before, with the largest increased investment in a generation. We cut taxes for 27 million families with children -- insisting that those tax cuts go to the hardest-pressed working families. Today, we take another giant step, to help parents succeed both at home and at work.
Today, with more children being raised by working parents than ever before -- and with the leadership of President and Mrs. Clinton -- the issue of child care has been placed at the center of our national debate. And that's exactly where it should be. Quality child care isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. It not only gives parents peace of mind -- it gives children safe places to learn and to grow. I am very proud that today's announcement will address the broad range of child care issues.
But there is one issue that is of special importance to me -- and as Tipper mentioned, it is one that has been highlighted at our annual Family Conferences in Nashville. Expanding access to after-school care -- keeping our schools open later, to engage our children during those critical hours -- must be a central part of any child care initiative. As someone who has traveled around the country and seen first-hand the difference after-school care makes, I know that the President's new efforts in this area will help millions of children and families.
For parents whose workday ends long after school has let out, after-school care means the security of knowing that their children are in good hands, and not in harm's way. Every week, at least five million children spend time as latch-key kids. At best, they walk home alone, returning to empty houses. At worst, they end up on the streets, and in trouble. The statistics are very clear: children from 12 to 17 have the greatest risk of being involved with violent crime between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 p.m. -- that vast wasteland of time after the school bell has rung for our children, but before the work whistle has blown for their parents.
Of course, getting kids off the street corners and into quality after-school care is about more than just keeping them out of trouble. It's about giving them something to say "yes" to. We know that new economy requires our kids to learn more than ever before. But today, children spend less than 20% of their waking hours in school. With after-school programs,young people can expand their horizons of creativity, receive one-on-one mentoring and tutoring, learn about computers, and learn the skills they will need to compete and win in the 21st Century. It simply doesn't make sense to close down our schools every afternoon when they can serve as sanctuaries of learning and centers of community all day long.
Our schools -- at all levels -- are public institutions built with public investments. And we'll get a better return on that investment if we keep our school doors open, rather than letting them become wasted space after three o'clock. After-school care -- organized by our public schools and our community organizations -- can engage and enlighten our children, so they never fall prey to destructive influences. That is a goal every parent -- and every caring American --must share.
In the coming months, I will work very hard to help the President enact his child care proposal -- and I will be particularly involved in efforts to expand access to after-school programs.
Today is a proud moment in our crusade to give all our children a better, brighter future. But this day would never have been possible without the leadership of President and Mrs. Clinton. For five years, I have seen them take on the tough issues and stand up for hard-working families. With a strong commitment and a clear vision, President and Mrs. Clinton are making affordable and accessible child care a reality for millions of Americans. Now it is my honor to introduce the President of the United States -- and America's first parent -- Bill Clinton...