The President’s Plan for the Economy and Education

In his speech to Congress, President Obama laid out two job programs critical to ensuring every child has the opportunity for a world-class education.

He proposed to invest $30 billion to put hundreds of thousands of construction workers, engineers, boiler repairmen, and electrical workers back to work rebuilding and modernizing our aging public schools and community colleges. And he proposed an additional $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators facing potential layoffs and furloughs in classrooms where they belong—instead of on unemployment lines.

In the global economy, the nation that out-educates America will out-compete America. But the hard truth is that a number of nations are now out-educating the U.S.—and the antiquated conditions of many public schools are limiting children’s access to the 21st century tools and skills needed to compete in a knowledge economy.

The average public school building in the United States is over 40 years old. Many school buildings are even more antiquated. Today, the digital age has penetrated every nook of American life—with the exception of many of our public schools.

Most classrooms have changed little from a century ago. In fact, 43 states report that a third or more of their schools fail to meet the functional requirements necessary to effectively teach laboratory science—even though hands-on science education is vital for the jobs of the future. That’s no way to provide a world-class education.

Cash-strapped school districts meanwhile face an enormous $270 billion backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs. Tragically, children in the nation’s poorest school districts often attend schools with crumbling ceilings, overcrowded classrooms, and facilities that lack basic wiring infrastructure for computers, projectors, and other modern-day technology.

This is not a partisan issue. The physical conditions at some aging schools today are shameful. They are no place for children to learn.

The President’s plan is one of the largest-ever investments in school modernization. It would modernize approximately 35,000 schools, or about a third of all public schools in the United States.

Under his plan, $25 billion would go to upgrading existing public school facilities (including charter schools), with $5 billion invested in modernizing community colleges.

Federal funds would be targeted to the neediest school districts and those ready to act fast to put people back to work. But the federal government won’t fund new construction or get involved in picking which schools to modernize.

Those decisions will be left entirely to states and districts with an on-the-ground knowledge of local needs. Some communities will support major classroom renovations, plaster, and plumbing upgrades. Others will invest in energy efficiency to reduce soaring utility bills—or modernize science labs and support technology needed to prepare students for 21st century jobs.

Projections from proposals similar to the President’s plan suggest it could create as many as 300,000 jobs in the construction trades. And modernizing and rebuilding our schools is a classic win-win solution. It benefits everyone—children, communities, and the construction workers back on the job.

While modernization could put a small army of Americans back to work rebuilding and upgrading our schools, looming teacher layoffs could have a devastating impact on classroom instruction and the careers of hundreds of thousands of teachers.

According to the Council of Economic Advisers, as many as 280,000 education jobs may be on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to multi-billion dollar state and local budget shortfalls for teacher salaries and benefits.

Behind those numbers are the real lives of committed, talented teachers, who are devoted to their students and work tirelessly to help them learn.

The quality of the teacher at the front of the classroom is the single biggest in-school influence on student learning. As the bar for educational success rises worldwide in the knowledge economy, this is no time to be laying off scores of teachers and early childhood educators.

Already, financially-pinched school districts are reducing class time, shortening the school calendar, cutting afterschool programs and early childhood education, and reducing arts and music instruction.

The path to prosperity, the way to win the future, is to invest wisely in schools, remembering that children get only one chance at an education.

That’s why I support the President’s plan to modernize our schools for the 21st century and minimize teacher layoffs. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

Watch President Obama’s speech to Congress outlining the American Jobs Act at, or learn more at



  1. You’re kidding right? If the system has been failing for decades how can Obama throw more money at it actually fix the problem? If my property taxes help go to my local education system than we should be following the 10th amendment and remove the feds from our local system. The Dept of Ed has been failing since it was created. It’s only purpose was to make people “feel good” that the bloated federal government was doing something for “the little people.” It’s a fraud, hoax, and complete waste of tax payer money.
    Why do you think so many parents home school? Because our educational system has turned into a biased joke. What’s worse is they want to use money WE DON’T HAVE. Cut this dept COMPLETELY and give it back to the states. Let them construct proper educational systems. It’ll also eliminate the teacher’s union issue who the leader proudly proclaimed it’s not about the children but the money and the power. The right to work states will clear that up and we’ll see which states have the best education. Just saying…

  2. President Obama is taking the necessary steps to help improve the current status of the educational system in America. For so many schools to be outdated, when it comes to facilities, is unacceptable. I teach in a school where there is a SMART Board in every classroom. A SMART Board is an interactive white board that can enhance any given lesson a teacher wants to present to the class. However, if a teacher were to compare my school to the Detroit Public school system, where large budget cuts are made and teachers are being laid-off, the comparison can be very discouraging. Even though our economy is in a recovery stage, the quality of education we provide our children should not be allowed to rescind. President Obama’s plan creates a chain reaction effect that creates jobs and improves the educational system in America. Next, President Obama plans to reform the NCLB Act, which places huge certification limitations on experienced and qualified teachers. A teacher who has been teaching math for ten years should not have to take a “test” to deem themselves “highly qualified”. Also, I work in a district where certain teachers who are not “highly qualified” are unable to make extra money via after-school tutoring, but we have to pay extra money to take tests to make ourselves “highly qualified”. The situation just seems unfair.

  3. Even though, Similar ACTs were composed by several presidents earlier, its an appreciative decision in most needed times. I’m sure most of us are happy with the JOB ACT speech.

    Education here is known for diverting the CASH into various other needs on actual ground. It’s highly important that education’s 65Bn is spent in correct manner that actually reach right needed people. There must be every possible measuring step to make it happen.

    It’s also important, “Teachers, Administrators, nurses or any other resources” who ever is granted this fund, must serve with ONE right purposes – This money is allotted for me to make this a better place, let me serve that purpose.

    Overall, I must thank who ever contributed in getting this fund through Congress!!! and Of course, Love our President.

  4. I work in an 84 year old school building in Philadelphia where I am the sole counselor for 500+ children. My office has ONE electrical plug which is dangerously overloaded because I have to connect a computer, printer, etc. to the one outlet or I can’t do my job. Class sizes have ballooned to almost 40 with the teacher layoffs that have already occurred here. It would be nice to think that modernizations of buildings and teacher re-hires would actually occur, but the levels of corruption between what is passed by Congress and what is actually accomplished will ensure that this becomes a mess. Am I losing hope? Yes, I am.

  5. It makes no sense to throw more money to teachers if they keep the same education structure in place.

    Before spending any federal dollars on education, we need to downsize the Departments of Education, discontinue Praxis testing and eliminate the myriad of illogical instruction methods.

    We need to hire new teachers who teach fundamentals, analytical thinking and deeper problem solving skills. The money needs to be properly spent on education that will revive American innovative thinking.

    This will not happen with more funding on existing programs, interactive tools and wireless calculators.

    Teachers with true grit need to be in the classroom even if they do not fit ideal models of system pedagogy or flavor-of-the-year standards or frameworks.

    • I think the educational structure should be evaluated. And the people in-charge of this shouldn’t be afraid to make big, huge changes even to their hurt.

  6. The modernization of the community colleges is a fascinating idea and one that is in need. Many community college, such as the one in Miami Dade, is growing tremendously in enrollment. We have to support and nurture these students. I will launch a book to help community college studnts in early 2012.

  7. I hope minimizing the amount of money districts and states spend on standardized tests is a part of solution toward ensuring students have access to myriad quality teachers. Too much money is spent on assessment batteries created by private organizations which reduce the funds available to cultivate autonomy, professionalism, and the long term development of our best and brightest in the classroom. Finland invested funds not in testing, but in ensuring that each and every student has access to an individualized education through the quality instruction delivered by satisfied unionized teachers, not high stakes testing. What are we doing? Most teachers are disenchanted by the policies enacted on a federal, and now state, level due to Race to the Top’s incentives. What is happening to draw teachers in, engage them, enlist them, and inspire them? Without their buy-in, support, and enthusiasm, all reforms are for naught. So, what are we doing?

  8. “Most classrooms have changed little from a century ago.” MOST?!?!? Really? Most classrooms have not changed from a century ago!?!?!? Please visit more classrooms, Mr. Duncan!

  9. I would love to share my ideas with the Department of Education. I know that we currently offer CBO’s grants to scaffold our children to educational excellence. I would like to serve on a team that trains CBO’S how to effectively move students to the next level.
    For example, teachers are members of church congregations, parents trust the churches that they are affiliated with. Why not allow churches to hire their teachers for weekend and afterschool tutoring. But, the tutors must be highly qualified.
    Also, I recognize that churches are the nucleus of the community, allow churches to host SWAT, Science with a Twist, hands-on science labs on a monthly basis and parents being involved in the activities. I did this for a back to school event and it was a wonderful turn out.
    Finally, SES is one of the largest small businesses that minorities are thriving in but many companies aren’t able to provide a seamless transition fo the class lessons to the tutoring sessions. I would like to train ses companies on how to successfully support our schools regardless if they are public, private, or charter schools.
    I would also, like to create teams that support our charter schools with professional development to ensure that they are prepared to meet the academic needs of all students.

  10. Unfortunately it has almost no chance of passing.

    Still it was nice to hear money for education without the strings of RttT or any mention of Arne Duncan.

Comments are closed.