If you tuned in to Wednesday night’s State of the Union address, then you heard President Obama devote a portion of his remarks to education—and the link between an educated nation and a strong economy. “We need to invest in the skills and education of our people,” the President said to applause from Congress. And to do that, the President said, we need to update our education system by amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as “No Child Left Behind”).
Here’s more of what the President said Wednesday night about the imperative to challenge the status quo, reshape and innovate to effectively deliver education in the 21st century—from cradle to college to career.
“Now, this year, we’ve broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. (Applause.) And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.
When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That’s why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. (Applause.)
To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause.) Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause.) And let’s tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years – and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. (Applause.)
And by the way, it’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs – (applause) – because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.”
Secretary Duncan joined other Cabinet members in the House chamber to hear the President’s remarks and had this reaction afterward, “The President said ‘when’ we reauthorize not ‘if.’ He clearly wants to moves forward on reauthorization and that’s what we’re doing. At a time when most government spending is frozen, he proposed a $3 billion increase in education with an extra $1 billion when we reauthorize. So we are focused on fixing No Child Left Behind and building on the success of Race to the Top to promote competition, flexibility, incentives, rewards and a sharp focus on achievement gaps. Our kids can’t wait.”