President Obama links economy, education in State of the Union


by Brian Washington

President Obama is proving once again that he gets it—recognizing that education plays a crucial role in putting more Americans back to work, rebuilding the economy, and helping middle class families. 

During his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Obama stated he is fighting for an economy built on manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.  

President Obama understands that investing in education now is fundamental to the long-term economic well-being of our children and our nation. For example, during his address, he talked about ending subsidies for big banks and using the savings to help make college more affordable for students. 

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel described it as a bold vision that offers both hope and help to Americans.

“We welcome the president’s efforts to put opportunity within reach of more Americans by strengthening and building the capacity of higher education and career and technical education so students can find good jobs and pursue their dreams,” said Van Roekel, an Arizona math teacher. “NEA is committed to the success of all students and ensuring that education remains the engine that moves America forward. We look forward to working with President Obama and Congress to enact an agenda as bold as the challenges facing Americans.” 

The State of the Union also stood out with teachers and education support professionals  because of one of the guests invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama—a third-generation educator and NEA member from Pennsylvania, Sara C. Ferguson.  

Ferguson teaches in the Chester Upland School District, where Governor Tom Corbett and state officials told educators that due to budget problems there wouldn’t be enough money to pay them. Ferguson and her colleagues have agreed to defer their salaries as long as their personal finances hold out. 

Ferguson said she wants her appearance to represent her students and all the hard-working teachers and education support professionals in our public schools. Following the address last night, Ferguson penned a national blog entry for Huffington Post. She also appeared on national television.


Get the latest news concerning the issues that impact educators and public schools by signing up for Education Votes. To learn more about the State of the Union address, visit

Reader Comments

  1. then speak what you want to speak. It takes voice to be heard. Instead of complaining of what the president decided by history. Then speak your voice now. He is a human he has made errors and I’m sure as president, and as a human he knows this first hand. However, in placing his eyes through his own children’s eyes and placing himself on the other side of the table.

    Perhaps he could/can, see things differently than he did a couple of years ago.

    Regardless he is STILL our president. Yes he is still a father, dad, human. He would do anything, when it comes to his own children.

    In hindsight, looking back maybe by placing himself not as president but as a father, as a human, as I did in prior statement. He will take/look/see different approaches/neccessities/needs. IN ALARMING MANNER and he will pay more attention to the current state of this world (USA).

    His choices from history can still make a difference by choices, heard through voices! He IS STILL OUR PRESIDENT. MEANING, HE CAN MAKE A CHANGE NOW! In saying this, speak your voice so he can hear yours. By speaking, your speaking for your/our/ALL children too. EVEN IF THIS DOESN’T REACH THE PRESIDENT, AT LEAST I KNOW IT REACHED GOD! !!!


  2. Obama needs to say he backs tenure and teaching as a profession. Tenure permits teachers to become professionals without tenure all you have is a temp job. He should encourage states to focus on evaluation to weed out irresponsible teachers. Evaluations needs a base of observation that can be applied to non testing teachers such as art and music. Rewarding high flying teachers may seem like a great idea but they will take the pay from everyone to pay for the high flyers. Will the experieced teachers want to share their knowledge with the newbie? Working as a team will be gone, resentment will be high. They should invest in lead teachers or master teachers who are experienced and share their know how. Teachers teaching teachers is a great model.

  3. High time we rebuild, restore and restructure
    education. I believe we have a fabulous bunch of hard working educators who areI the ultimate resource to bring this needed change about. So happy to be part of the solution. I pray for all who are committed to maintain hope, energy and fortitude to make it happen. God bless.

  4. Does everybody in this country have amnesia? Don’t people remember from 2008 how Obama campaigned (progressive, liberal) and how he actually governed (conservative) once elected? He appointed an Ed Sec, Arne Duncan, who loves privatization and craps all over teachers and their unions.
    What indications does anyone have that Obama would be different in a second term? Especially since there would be nothing to hold over him, like a re-election?
    Repubs are obviously not a consideration for educators. I would urge people to vote third party, like Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. You would not be wasting your vote. You only waste it if you support parties (like the Dems and Repubs) who do not support middle class interests. The Dems and Repubs are 2 sides of the same coin. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them. Both support the rich and corporations.

  5. I agree about rewarding teachers who do well and being able to let go of teachers who don’t do their job. What measures will be used to decide which teachers are doing well? It cannot and should not only be based on the state standardized tests. I teach first grade and we don’t give those tests.
    I think teachers who are not doing their jobs should be evaluated out, but that becomes a slippery slope. Who makes those decisions? Will there be a teaching rubric that we will follow or will it be Principal recommendation only?
    I support the President in many of his ideas on education, but I do not support merit pay. It only leads to cheating, pitting teachers against each other, and bad morale. There has to be a better alternative to that.

    1. Laura…please think about it a little further. What would happen to collective bargaining if we were to have “merit pay”? It is more important to consider that part of this puzzle. What about teachers who do not teach required classes? What if the Superintendent or Principal had a personality conflict with a good teacher?

      Why do we need this incentive? Look at Sarah Ferguson and her colleagues. Aren’t we all more like them? We don’t do this for the money for godsakes. We do our best for the children. Do you really believe we have a lot of “bad” teachers? What we really do have are a lot of BAD politicians who are being bought and paid for by people like the Koch Brothers and other special interest groups as well as corporations. Why don’t we put them on “merit” pay?

  6. I was inspired by the passion of President Obama’s speech and wahat seemed to be bi-partisan support for much of his speech.

    I am concerned about two topics regarding education funding. During the speech, the President mentioned retaining and “rewarding” the best teachers. I sure do like the idea of being rewarded for high quality work and getting the best of the best from teachers. I am concerned the President is still conssidering merit pay as a viable option for rewading teachers. This is a morale buster for all staff. How do you measure the best?

    Also, how can we fund alternative schools at a higher level so these studentts can receive the same quality of education as other students?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *