As President Obama acknowledged in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the American people tend to regard much of what goes on in Washington, DC, with a skeptical eye. But there was a moment during Obama's looong (is it over yet?) speech that, as the parent of two kids attending public elementary school, I found myself wanting to stand up and cheer. Actually, come to think of it, there were a few of them.
Here are five things the President said about education that parents of kids of all ages -- K through college -- can celebrate. (If Washington lawmakers can manage to work out a deal to make them happen, that is -- which is, of course, a big if.)
1. A big shout-out for teachers: "We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies -- just to make a difference. Teachers matter."
2. A pledge to kick "teaching to the test" to the curb: "Let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn."
3. A push for new efforts keep kids in high school until they graduate: "We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen."
4. A call to help families pay for college with more affordable student loans and other financial aid options: "At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years."
5. A plea to states and schools to keep tuition costs down: "States ... need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down .... So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury -- it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."
Hear, hear! Facing years of fighting for your kids' education -- better elementary schools, more affordable colleges, etc. -- is daunting. It's nice to know that parents' concerns are on the agenda. Let's hope some of those items on the education wish list actually do come true.
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What did you think of President Obama's statements about education in his State of the Union speech?
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