Obama: Spare education from budget cuts

Repeating a line from a speech he gave at Forsyth Technical Community College last month, the president called this “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” He noted that China now boasts the world’s fastest computer, and South Koreans have faster internet access than Americans.

To compete in the new global economy, “we need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” Obama said. “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

He said he would propose a budget for fiscal year 2012 that invests more money in biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy technology—“an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people,” he said.

On education, the president will ask Congress to extend a $10,000 college tax credit and pay for thousands of new science and math teachers as part of a broad rewrite of the nation’s education system.

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The tax break for students originally was included in the economic stimulus bill passed shortly after Obama took office. In his State of the Union address, Obama reiterated his call for Congress to make it permanent.

Obama also called for 100,000 more science and technology teachers by the end of the decade. And he wants Congress to replace the No Child Left Behind law with new measures giving more flexibility to schools.

The president asked for more federal investment in infrastructure as well, saying: “Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.”

“This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls,” he continued. “It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. … It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device, a student who can take classes with a digital textbook, or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

To help pay for these initiatives, Obama wants to eliminate billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to oil companies, get rid of corporate tax loopholes that allow some companies to skate by without paying U.S. taxes, and roll back the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

“Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break,” the president said. “It’s not a matter of punishing their success; it’s about promoting America’s success.”

Some of Obama’s proposals will face opposition from members of his own party.

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