Education is one of the few areas of the federal budget that would not see a spending freeze, if President Barack Obama gets his way this year.
In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 27, Obama said his administration will work with Congress to expand school improvements across the country, saying the success of children cannot depend on where they live.
As he prepares to ask Congress for billions of dollars in new spending for education, the president said the nation’s students need to be inspired to succeed in math and science, and that failing schools need to be turned around.
Obama also called on Congress to finish work on a measure to revitalize community colleges. And he called for a $10,000 tax credit to families for four years of college, as well as an increase in Pell Grants.
“In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education,” Obama said.
He said college students should only have to devote 10 percent of their post-college income to repaying student loans.
“And let’s tell another one million students that when they graduate, … 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,” he added.
Obama will ask Congress to boost federal spending on education by as much as $4 billion in the coming 2011 budget year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said earlier in the day.
Of that total, $3 billion is slated for elementary and secondary education programs ranging from teacher quality to student safety.
The sum also includes another $1.35 billion for Obama’s “Race to the Top” competitive grant program, which was created last year using $4.35 billion from the economic stimulus bill. States must compete for a share of the money and, for some, that means changing their education laws and striking deals with teacher unions to bring their systems in line with Obama’s vision of education reform.
“This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “The idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success.”
Obama sees linking student test scores to teacher performance and creating charter schools as solutions to the problems plaguing public education. Charter schools are funded with public money but operate independently of local school boards. These ideas are controversial, however, and 10 states chose not to apply for Race to the Top funding as a result.
The first round of Race to the Top awards is expected to be announced in April.
With the additional $1.35 billion, states not awarded money in the first round would get another chance to compete. Local school districts also would be allowed to apply.
The rest of the money Obama seeks for K-12 education would become available after Congress overhauls the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law, which is due for a rewrite. Duncan said he hopes that process will be completed by August.