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Mentor Plan Imperiled by Tax Cut, Clinton Says

August 08, 1999|Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — President Clinton on Saturday promoted a support system to help youngsters graduate from "the playground to the college classroom," announcing $120 million in grants intended to put higher education within their reach.

Even as "Operation Gear Up" gets under way, Clinton said in his weekly radio address, it is threatened by the Republicans' $792-billion tax-cut package.

"I don't think we should decide on this big tax cut and just hope there's enough left over to pay for education and to save Social Security and Medicare and pay off our national debt," he said.

Clinton said he will ask the Republican-controlled Congress to double the financial commitment to the program "so that we can reach more of our children than ever."

The GOP, through House Republican Conference chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), accused the president of misleading the people about the Republicans' tax plan. "The debate over education is not about money but control. The choice is between Washington bureaucrats or parents, teachers and local leaders," Watts said in a statement.

Clinton said that "Operation Gear Up" will create hundreds of partnerships between universities, colleges, communities and middle and junior high schools.

The goal is to make contact with youngsters no later than the seventh grade and provide mentors "who encourage them to have high hopes and expectations for themselves."

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