Obama’s Weekly Address: Getting Serious About Education Reform

Sep 24, 2011 6:01am

In his weekly address, President Obama highlighted the economic need to reform America’s failing education system, saying, “If we’re serious about building an economy that lasts – an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle class jobs – we had better be serious about education.”  

Obama said that passing his $447 billion jobs bill and reforming the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” education law will allow the U.S. to educate its way to a better economy.

“It is time to put our teachers back on the job,” he said. “It is time to rebuild and modernize our schools.  And it is time to raise our standards, up our game, and do everything it takes to prepare our children succeed in the global economy.  Now is the time to once again make our education system the envy of the world.”‘

As many as a quarter of American students fail to finish high school and, as the president noted, the U.S. has fallen to 16th place in world for the percentage of young people who earn a college degree. 

All of that, Obama said, should spur Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

“As a nation, we have an obligation to make sure that all children have the resources they need to learn – quality schools, good teachers, the latest textbooks and the right technology,” he said. “That’s why the jobs bill I sent to Congress would put tens of thousands of teachers back to work across the country, and modernize at least 35,000 schools.  And Congress should pass that bill right now.” 

The day after the president announced that he was giving states the option to opt out of central requirements of “No Child Left Behind,” he said that “it’s time for us to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future.” 

“While the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, experience has taught us that the law has some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them,” he said. “Teachers are being forced to teach to a test, while subjects like history and science are being squeezed out.  And in order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states lowered their standards in a race to the bottom.”

The president is allowing states to waive the current 2014 deadline to prove students are proficient in math and reading as long as they adopt certain reforms deemed necessary by the White House. 

“Our kids only get one shot at a decent education,” he said. “And they can’t afford to wait any longer.”

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