On Tuesday, during President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address, he reinforced the message that education plays an important role in our country. The President began his speech by noting the critical part that educators play: “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.”
President Obama laid out his top priorities, rooted in three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism. Among the education topics discussed, the President recommitted to making high-quality preschool available to every 4-year-old, connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband over the next four years, redesigning high schools to offer more real-world education and hands-on training, and increasing college opportunity and success.
Educators and students also were well represented in the First Lady’s viewing box. Read more about them here. Below are the education excerpts from the speech:
Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.
Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.
High School Redesign and Student Loans
We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
State of the Union Resources
Learn more about the Obama administration’s major priorities in education:
- Progress for America’s Children
- Early Learning: America’s Middle Class Promise Begins Early
- K-12 Reforms: Strategic Initiatives to Foster Real Change
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership
- Teachers and Leaders: America’s Engineers of Learning and Growth
- Working to Keep Schools and Communities Safe
- A Great Education Helps to Create Ladders of Opportunity for All Students
- Equity of Opportunity
- College Affordability and Completion: Ensuring a Pathway to Opportunity
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education