Obama calls for more school funding


The request for $4 billion would increase federal education spending by about 6 percent.

The Education Department also wants to eliminate six programs, deeming them duplicative or ineffective. The agency would consolidate 38 other programs into 11 programs to eliminate bureaucracy and red tape. Duncan said the details about which programs these proposals would include will be available next week, when the president sends his 2011 budget plan to Congress.

Duncan said Obama’s decision to boost education spending, at the same time he is calling for a freeze on other federal spending, shows how important the issue is to the president.

“Given how tough the economy is now, having a 6 percent increase at this point is extraordinary,” Duncan said. “You’re not seeing that happen anyplace else.”

Education groups said they were thankful the president is making education a key priority in his 2011 budget, and they look forward to working with Congress on reauthorizing NCLB.

“With the possible exception of Wall Street, nowhere in America have people been unaffected by our nation’s economic crisis,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement.

“In these tough times, we appreciate that President Obama is trying to shield children from budget cuts that affect their schools. He understands that kids don’t get a second chance to receive a good education and that our country’s future depends on the quality of education we provide for our children.”

Her statement, issued before Obama’s State of the Union speech, did not address the proposed increase in Race to the Top funding or the use of test scores as an indicator of teacher quality. But in a Jan. 12 speech at the National Press Club, Weingarten said a comprehensive and robust evaluation system that relies on much more than just test scores is the necessary predicate for developing high-quality teachers, and for a fair, expedient process to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

“For too long and too often, teacher evaluation—in both design and implementation—has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving and informing teaching so as to better educate all students,” Weingarten said in her speech. “We need to put … time and effort into developing and evaluating teachers. And we need to ensure that the women and men who teach our children are participants in every stage of the process. That’s what we mean when we say do these things ‘with us, not to us.’”

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, had this to say after the president’s speech:

“By linking education to the economy, President Obama made clear that diplomas mean dollars. … Better educational outcomes mean better economic outcomes. That’s certainly true for the individual, but, as [the president] made clear, it’s also true for the nation.”

He added: “The research backs him up. According to an Alliance for Excellent Education report, cutting the dropout rate in half in the nation’s 50 largest cities would create 30,000 new jobs, increase home sales by $10.5 billion, and boost economic growth in these areas by $5.3 billion.”

With NCLB nearly ten years old, Wise said, Obama “made the right call to action—this year, pass [a new version of the law] without delay. A generation of students and skilled workers depend[s] on it.”

But the new version must do more to strengthen high schools, Wise implored.

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