by Félix Pérez
Building on his top priority to boost the middle class and promote economic fairness, President Obama made clear in his 2013 budget that high-quality education is absolutely critical to rebuilding our economy and that a strengthened American workforce requires that we continue to invest in education.
The President’s emphasis on education is evidenced by the fact that education is targeted for the single largest percentage increase of any discretionary item in the entire federal budget. The budget, released at a Northern Virginia community college Monday, February 13, calls for significant investments to provide career and higher education opportunities for all.
“So making sure we’ve got the most skilled workers starts early. It starts with K-12 — it starts before K-12, making sure every child is prepared. And when an American of any age wants to pursue any kind of higher education —whether it’s that high school grad who’s just trying to get that first couple years of college education, or somebody . . . who’s in the process of retraining — whether it’s two years or four years or more, we’ve got to make sure that education is affordable and available to everybody who wants to go,” said President Obama to hundreds of students and faculty.
The President’s proposed budget call for modernizing at least 35,000 schools and providing $30 billion to help states, cities and localities retain and hire first responders and educators, as well as support the teaching profession. That proposal will keep teachers in classrooms, which will help address growing class sizes and provide assistance to states and towns facing tough economic times.
Of particular note is President Obama’s call to prevent the doubling of student loan interest rates (from 3.4 to 6.8 percent) scheduled for this summer. His budget also also calls for an $8 billion investment in community colleges so they can become “community career centers — places where folks can learn the skills that local business are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.” And, it would protect the maximum award for Pell Grants going forward.
Dennis Van Roekel, an Arizona math teacher and president of the National Education Association, praised the budget. “The president wants what every parent, student and the NEA want —qualified, caring and committed adults in every school in America to provide the support and programs needed for students of all ages to succeed,” said Van Roekel. “One of the Administration’s goals is to work with educators, school and district leaders, associations and unions, and state and national education organizations to spark a dialogue to transform the teaching profession and to establish teaching as a respected profession on a par with medicine, law and engineering.”
Learn more about which presidential candidates are standing with educators and the middle class by visiting the EdVotes.org Election 2012 page.