Bill Clinton: Health, energy and a bit about charter schools

President Bill Clinton urged charter school advocates to focus on energy efficiency and student health in a speech Tuesday in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

President Bill Clinton urged charter school advocates to focus on energy efficiency and student health in a speech Tuesday in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

After the soaring rhetoric of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the 4,000 attendees of the National Charter Schools Conference received a dose of practical advice from former President Bill Clinton, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the group this morning.

America had one charter school when Clinton took office and 2,000 when he left. Clinton said his advisers were dismayed when he insisted on talking about the unknown concept of charter schools on the campaign trail during his first run for office.

Yes, he told his campaign team. People don’t understand what a charter school is, but they do understand that America needs education change.

But rather than exhort the charter school advocates in the auditorium today to treat the movement as a civil rights cause as Mayor Booker had done a few minutes earlier, Clinton focused on more pragmatic paths, urging school leaders to consider job skills training in their schools, energy efficiencies in their buildings and nutrition and exercise programs for their students. He praised a program in New York City where students are painting flat black roofs white, a simple step that Clinton says will save energy and money.

Clinton urged a national movement to go into schools and make them more energy efficient, paying for the construction costs through utility bill savings. The campaign would  help schools save money and put thousands of Americans back to work, he said.

“If you want to put America to work, making the physical structures of America more energy efficient is a very good thing to do,” he said. “It makes me sick to drive by these schools that are not open this summer vacation and people aren’t fixing them.”

The initiatives in his speech reflect some of the themes of Clinton’s post-presidential career and his own health wake-up call from 2004 bypass surgery for heart disease.

Ever the politician and ever the Democrat, Clinton also criticized the Republican health proposals that he said would only add to the costs to consumers.

He said the United States has been stymied by the deceit that government is bad. “The whole thing being pitched to us now, as it always has been, is that government is always a problem — if only we had less government the world would be a wonderful place,” he said. “Except when I need a college loan or I am losing my farm or there is a natural disaster or I want safe food and clean water.”

“People have given up on us because it looks like a food fight most of the time,” he said. “This is not about ideology. It is not about theology. It is about what we can do to give our kids a brighter tomorrow by putting our country back in the futures business.”

Clinton said that Congress is resisting 21st century changes, including the fact that “borders now look more like nets than walls.”

“Throughout our human history, success brings both complacency and an almost irrational desire to hold onto the present and, as a result of that, systems tend more and more to exist for the benefit of people in dominant positions than to advance the purposes for which they were established,” Clinton said.

The second destructive myth foisted on America, says Clinton, is that corporations are obligated only to the people in charge and the stockholders. In corporate law classes in law school, Clinton said he learned that corporations were responsible to all the stakeholders, including their employees and their communities.

When America bought into the notion that government is always a detriment and that corporations have no responsibility to communities, Clinton said, “We became a less successful country.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

23 comments Add your comment

Dr NO

June 21st, 2011
1:29 pm

Bill Clinton, winner of a Lifetime Achievement…well so much for the lifetime achievement awards meaning anything.

Just more Clinton smoke and bluster like some other award winners…namely The Goron, Obama, Carter, Cynthia Tucker. Awards not worth the paper on which they are printed. And Yes Mr Clinton Govt IS the problem and continues to be and will be.

NO? Look at the now defunct USSR or the funct (lol) EU! mmm hmmm…

HStchr

June 21st, 2011
1:29 pm

Sensible man who speaks sensible solutions. Small wonder our best economy was established during his tenure in the White House. Small wonder it’s done nothing but get worse since.

Dr NO

June 21st, 2011
1:37 pm

Nothing like the internet explosion to drive things along. Nothing like stripping the military, CIA to find addl funds. Nothing like letting Bin Laden take a pass when we couldve had him in Somalia, I believe it was.

Yea I guess when one doesnt pay ones bills and/or plays the old shell game then there is cash a plenty.

Even when interviewed and asked “Mr Clinton name just one Country that has revived its economy by increased spending” the ole snake oil salesman bit his lip and hesitated…….then……change the subject.

Bravo!!

Active in Cherokee

June 21st, 2011
2:47 pm

Like him or not – for all the talk of the GOP for a smaller government, the last administration a budget decreased so that there was a balanced budget, then later a surplus was under Clinton’s administration. Much of the thoughts of changes in education, including the Charter school idea, came from him – even if the legislation did not actually get passed at a federal level (mainly because he believed education should be handled by the states).

Daiwe01

June 21st, 2011
2:56 pm

@Dr No — The largest reduction in U.S. military history began before Clinton was elected. This reduction was ordered by Dick Cheney during the Bush1 administration.

jj

June 21st, 2011
4:54 pm

For the most part his presidency was pretty good. But one has to remembe the revune growth was created by Bush 1 and his tax increases, GB did all the heavy lifting and it cost him the election. Most Dems think the Repubs cant stand BC, the issue is the guy comitted perjury. If any of us did what he did we would have gone to jail. BC was disbarred in Arkansas due to this little transgression, a fact that rarely makes it’s way into main stream media. So forgive me if I have little care for what he has to say today.

FBT

June 21st, 2011
8:57 pm

One of the most unusual speeches I have ever heard.

Retired SE GA Teacher

June 21st, 2011
10:02 pm

My daughter and her husband recently relocated from suburban Chicago to the Charlotte, NC, area. I was totally amazed at the successful charter schools in the Charlotte metro area. My daughter has an undergrad and masters from UGA and really hopes to find a job at one of these charter schools. Why can’t we have these schools in all areas of GA? Her application, which has landed her an interview this week, was extremely long and personal. She was very impressed by the in-depth questions they asked. Hope she gets the job!!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Mauron

June 21st, 2011
11:56 pm

There you go again Mauron with your charter hatred calling the outstanding speech by Mayor Booker, “rhetoric”. What advice did you give the charter people in your session? I bet it was Jack Kavorkian like advice.

Fled

June 22nd, 2011
2:28 am

For better or for worse, much of the initiative and energy in education these days is going into the charter school movement. The tone of the charter advocates’ postings is confident while many teachers seem defensive. Recently, a director of a virtual charter school took advantage of the blog to offer some marketing for her way of teaching (which, of course, is the only way). Those folks are certainly quite sure of themselves and claim to have all the answers. Perhaps with a carefully selected student population, they will achieve what they promise. I think we will find after about five years that some charter schools are really good, some are really awful, and most of them are OK, just like public schools. I wonder if parents really understand what they are doing when they decide to support the charter movement, as it is corporate to the bone. My suspicion is that they won’t really like corporate education, but it will be too late to change after it is fully implemented. Imagine all that public money just sitting there waiting to be turned into corporate profits.

Meanwhile, what are public schools doing to show that they get it and also are going to be innovative, teaching true twenty-first century skills? Here are some quotes from the Fulton County website about new “leaders” installed this month:

“He also has served as the district’s director of Accountability and has held positions with Teach for America and Platform Learning, a national provider of tutoring services under No Child Left Behind.”

“Davis also is part of the Broad Residency, a highly-competitive leadership development program sponsored by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.”

“She also has held the role of a school improvement coordinator at Fulton’s central administrative offices, helping schools develop initiatives to improve student performance.”

“Kersey has worked collaboratively with teachers to implement common assessments and make instructional adjustments to prepare students for End-of-Course Tests and other standardized tests.”

Sounds like mediocrity and a race to the bottom are in your future, Fulton teachers. Lockstep, test prep instead of innovative teaching. Failure to educate children in any meaningful way is the official goal of your school system. I’m ever grateful that neither I nor my children are subject to this any longer. At a time when education is more important than ever for children and young people, your students are learning to darken ovals. All those skills in test taking are really going to help them face down the challenges of their times. So, yes, perhaps some charters will be able to educate some children, and the rich will always be educated, and the rest are being prepared for a life as twenty-first century detritus. Thanks, republicans.

President Clinton is correct in his assessment of corporate behavior. With the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Wal-Mart yesterday, we are all on our own now. Buying judges was the best investment the corporate folks ever made.

Dr NO

June 22nd, 2011
7:37 am

Sure dawiaeiifnao.

the prof

June 22nd, 2011
8:52 am

Wish we could vote him in again……

Struggling Teacher

June 22nd, 2011
9:14 am

I would vote for Clinton again, too. I do not condone his extra-marital behavior, but our country was in far better shape during his tenure in office than it has been since then. He brings a great deal of intelligence and practical application to the conversation of public schools and their ills.

ScienceTeacher671

June 22nd, 2011
9:32 am

Down here in southeast Georgia, many of our systems are so small they only have one school at each level, and can barely afford that. I know the metro area is different, but one reason we don’t have the variety in most of Georgia is that our systems are too small because we have too many counties.

Consolidating these tiny rural counties would save this state so much money it’s ridiculous.

ScienceTeacher671

June 22nd, 2011
9:33 am

But Bill Clinton is an expert on education why?

Paddy O

June 22nd, 2011
6:54 pm

Clinton got lucky – the PC industry was created on his watch, and the dot.com boom AND BUST, occurred here too. That is what accounted for the recession Bush 2 had when he entered office, which was quickly forgotten after 9/11. I do NOT miss Clinton. The balanced budget was due to the republicans sweeping to office after Hillary tried to do the public healthcare things and wiser, less foolish Americans rejected it. With Gingrich in office, Clinton was forced to balance the budget, and reform Welfare (Wisconsin was doing it first); we also talked about the “peace dividend” – after the fall of the Soviet Union – which was the result of Reagan. Too many have selective amnesia.

Paddy O

June 22nd, 2011
6:56 pm

struggling teacher – do you remember the first attempted destruction of the WTC in 1993? How did Clinton react? The bombing of US embassies in north Africa? Two of them? What did Clinton do? I think the Cole occurred on his watch to – what did he do? If you answered “lob a couple tomahawks at suspected terrorist training bases” – you would be correct. A pathetic reaction that contributed to 9/11. If you give Clinton credit for the balanced budget and good economy, you are wrong.

[...] conference has had an impressive slate of speakers, beginning with President Bill Clinton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Tuesday. (These speeches are now online so you can watch them [...]

[...] conference has had an impressive slate of speakers, beginning with President Bill Clinton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Tuesday. (These speeches are now online so you can watch them [...]

[...] conference has had an impressive slate of speakers, beginning with President Bill Clinton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Tuesday. (These speeches are now online so you can watch them [...]

[...] discussion has had an considerable line-up of speakers, beginning with President Bill Clinton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Tuesday. (These speeches are now online so we can watch them [...]

Struggling Teacher

June 24th, 2011
1:16 pm

Paddy O, I would vote for Bill Clinton again because of the devastating eight years that followed him. As to those incidents to which you referred, neither of us have the real military intelligence shared with those in command. Clinton was able to act in spite of Gingrich’s diatribes. History will prove the Clinton’s prudence in military decisions was the wisest course of action. But for now, you and I will have to be satisfied with our own differing opinions. I am sad for your tunnel vision but only you can take off the blinders. I hope someday you will be able to see beyond the “I” in your political views.