President Barack Obama used a high-profile speech on the nation’s economic future today to bolster his administration’s case for investing in education programs. This will be a hot issue as Congress crafts the spending bills for fiscal year 2014, which starts on Oct. 1. Those spending bills will give lawmakers an opportunity to stop “sequestration"—a series of across-the-board cuts to federal education spending slated to go into effect.
“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century,” the president said in prepared remarks released in advance of the speech at Knox College in Illinois. “If we don’t make this investment, we’ll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades.”
Obama also used the opportunity to stump, again, for his preschool initiative, which got a lot of play in the State of the Union address in February, but so far hasn’t gained much traction in Brokedown Congress—Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have said they are putting together a bill that sounds like it would follow the administration’s general principles. But it faces long odds in a tight budget year, especially given the administration’s proposal to pay for the program (significantly raising tobacco taxes.)
Here’s a snippet on the topic from Obama’s speech:
“So we must begin in the earliest years. That’s why I’ll keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available to every 4-year-old in America—not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.”
Obama also stumped for his administration’s new e-rate initiative, which has the advantage of not needing a stamp of approval from Brokedown Congress. “Today, for example, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet over the next five years.” (Everything you ever wanted to know about e-rate here.)
And he hit on another State of the Union proposal: his $300 million high school redesign initiative, which is now likely dead in the water, after getting no love (well, at least, no money) from Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“And we’ve begun meeting with business leaders, tech entrepreneurs, and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.”
Yesterday, Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House, and other GOP leaders, issued a “pre-buttal” of the speech, saying that if the administration really wanted to improve the economy, it would urge Congress to pass the Skills Act (aka the Workforce Investment Act), which consolidates job-training programs. (No mention, however, of the recently approved House GOP bill to revise the No Child Left Behind Act.)