9:20pm

Tue January 24, 2012
It's All Politics

Can Obama Deliver On New Education Commitments?

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 8:48 pm

President Obama called for a "new national commitment" to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. He singled out partnerships between businesses and community colleges. It was not the first time he's proposed this, though. Earlier in his administration he abandoned a $12 billion plan to help community colleges expand their training programs. It's not clear where the money for this "new" national commitment will come from.

The president also talked about college affordability, and he warned college presidents: "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."

It's unclear how cutting funding for colleges, however, will keep tuition costs down.

This year, there's about $227 billion in grants, federal loans and tax credits available in student aid, but students are borrowing at record levels because of spiraling college tuition and tighter family budgets that have really squeezed the middle class.

Turning to his K-12 education agenda, President Obama said: "Tonight, I call on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."

With over 1 million dropouts every year, few if any school systems have put a dent in the nation's dropout crisis.

The president talked about improving teaching and raising academic standards, but these reforms have run into a wall in most places because of huge cuts in state funding for education. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 37 states and counting have cut per student funding this school year by as much as 20 percent in some cases.

And finally, the president vowed to give school districts the flexibility to "teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test."

Teachers unions, however, are likely to remain skeptical and keep a "seeing is believing" attitude.


Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.