On a campaign swing through Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Presidential candidate Sen. Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.) stopped at the Kennedy School of Government yesterday to announce an $11 billion proposal for upgrading American education.
Calling for a "national strategy for educational renewal," Mondale said the plan would seek to raise the quality of teaching--particularly in the sciences--and to increase financial aid for college students.
The candidate said in a press conference yesterday that he chose Harvard as the launching site for the plan because it is an "institution of educational excellence."
Consulting With Experts
Mondale used his time at Harvard to invite the comment of professors and administrators involved in education, including Graduate School of Education Dean Patricia A. Graham and Director of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons '67.
"I'm delighted to see such attention being devoted to an issue that has significance for our entire society", Graham said.
"It's significant that Mondale is making education a major campaign issue," said another guest at the unveiling, David Wise, professor of public policy.
The announcement came in response to President Reagan's reaction to a report issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which recommended longer school hours, higher college admissions standards and upgraded computer and science instruction.
Reagan said he supported the findings, but interpreted them as a mandate to dismantle the Department of Education. Calling Reagan's reaction "a slap in the face," Mondale criticized Reagan as an "enemy of excellence."
"Too many of our high school graduates can't read and write." Mondale said, adding. "Our standards have slipped, our scores have dropped, and too many of our students are sleepwalking."
The program would come in addition to the current $15 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of 73 percent.
To fund the increases, the Senator proposed capping the 1983 tax cut, controlling hospital costs, and "scaling the defense budget to reality."
Hailing it as a "crucial investment," Mondale called the plan "vital to maintaining the U.S.'s competitive edge." He added, "Without the educational excellence, the billions we spend on the military are often wasted--because our security depends on our intelligence."
The bulk of the funding he called for will go towards a $4.5 billion "fund for excellence" to finance local strategies for improving teacher salaries and computer training programs.
The plan channels another $4.5 billion to universities in research grants, graduate student loans and fellowship programs.
But Mondale also said that the "landscape of American education is not totally bleak", citing Harvard as an example. "If you are looking for an example of the finest education in the world, you will find it here," he said.