Obama says education spending critical to nation's success

Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.

In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure.

“Not everything is a fight, not everything has to be a battle to the death,” he said to top-dollar contributors as they ate, surrounded by Renaissance paintings in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Earlier, however, Obama set down a marker for the ongoing budget battles in Washington, illustrating just how far the compromise theme can go.

“I want everyone to pay attention. Even as we find ways to cut spending, we cannot cut back on job-creating investments like education,” he told a crowd at TechBoston Academy in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. “There’s nothing responsible about cutting back on our investment in these young people.”

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Obama was joined by philanthropist Melinda Gates in the latest stop on his month-long push for an education agenda aimed at garnering bipartisan support for more flexibility and accountability for teachers, and more innovative standards for students.

In choosing TechBoston, the White House sought to showcase a school in a working-class neighborhood that had turned around its graduation rate thanks to new flexibility for its leaders and plenty of help from private foundations.