How Many Teachers, Mr. President?

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Oct. 16 1998 8:35 PM

How Many Teachers, Mr. President?

For Bill Clinton these days, political victories are as hard to come by as Yankee Stadium box seats for the World Series. (Yes, Chatterbox is going to the opening game). So not even Ken Starr could blame the beleaguered President for crowing Friday morning as he hailed the budget agreement in the White House Rose Garden. "We fought for and won vital new investments, especially for our children," Clinton said. "By hiring 100,000 new teachers, we will reduce class size in the early grades to an average of 18." Later in his statement, Battlin' Bill returned to the same magic number when he declared, "We fought and fought and fought and won the right for the 100,000 teachers."

Advertisement

There's just one pesky problem--that number 100,000. As a Department of Education fact sheet accurately explains, "The FY1999 budget provides $1.2 billion to hire approximately 30,000 new teachers in the early grades." Even disregarding that hedge word "approximately," that works out to be exactly one new teacher for every two elementary schools in America. Put another way, Clinton's much-vaunted education plan will increase the rolls of the nation's public-school teachers by a dramatic 1.1 percent.

So how does our scrupulously accurate President get away with bragging about 100,000 teachers? You see Clinton has a dream, a will-o'-the-wisp fantasy of Congress someday funding those 100,000 new teachers. It's a seven-year plan that is supposed to reach its goal just about the time that President George W. Bush will be running for a second term.

Clinton perfected this big-number shuffle back in the days when he was burnishing his anti-crime credentials by pledging to put 100,000 federally-funded police officers on the streets. Remember all those placards proudly reading "100,000 Cops" at the1996 Democratic Convention? Well, Chatterbox, remembers. He checked with the Justice Department and discovered that--six long years into the Clinton presidency--Congress has approved funding for a total of 88,000 cops. And less than half of that number are currently walking a beat. As of March, only 43,305 men and woman in blue have ever been hired under Clinton's courageous 100,000-cops initiative. And that figure, by the way, includes several thousand would-be officers currently in training programs.

Now for the $100,000 question: Why is it, even now, that the supposedly cynical White House press corps continually lets Clinton get away with such blatant exaggerations about the mythical 100,000 cops and 100,000 teachers?

--Walter Shapiro

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 21 2014 12:40 PM Asamkirche: The Rococo Church Where Death Hides in Plain Sight
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller's Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Doctor, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.