In quest to turn jobs bill into law, Obama leverages education policy

Betsi Fores The Daily Caller News Foundation
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In his weekly video address Saturday, President Obama advocated for his American Jobs Act by focusing on the essential role that education plays in moving the economy forward. “If we’re serious about building an economy that lasts…we’d better be serious about education,” the president said.

Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill includes measures providing funds to put unemployed teachers back to work and modernize crumbling schools.

The president read a laundry list of abysmal U.S. education statistics. “As many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school,” he said. “And we’ve fallen to sixteenth in the percentage of our young people with a college degree, even though we know that 60 percent of new jobs in the coming decade will require a high school diploma.”

“These problems have been obvious to parents and educators all over this country for years but for years congress has failed to fix them. So now, I will.”

Obama repeatedly referred to education-related components of his jobs bill in demanding that Congress pass the bill “right now.”

The White House announced Friday that it will grant waivers permitting states to side-step proficiency requirements in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education policy.

NCLB waivers from this new “flexibility” program require states, school districts, and individual schools to demonstrate their embrace of alternative measures to achieve high test scores. Still, many Republicans have criticized the move as an example of partisan executive overreach.

Obama has clearly diverged from former President George W. Bush in his approach to education policy. Instead of implementing mandates for standardized test results, the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” funding program allows schools to compete and develop new programs for funding.