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Education Expected to Take Turn in State of the Union Spotlight

By Alyson Klein — January 24, 2012 1 min read
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Education is one of four areas President Obama will focus on during his State of the Union address tonight, according to this Associated Press story. The big question is: What will he say?

In giving this election year State of the Union speech, Obama may brag about some of the steps his administration has taken on education, including creating the Race to the Top education redesign competition, and offering states wiggle room under key parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if they agree to take-on the administration’s reform priorities.

And he could talk about steps the administration has taken to help boost college affordability, including getting rid of federally-subsidized student lenders in favor of direct government loans. The administration used the savings to boost aid for students. But the Pell Grant program, which offers grants to low-income students to attend college, remains under major financial pressure. Are there new initiatives Obama can talk about in this area, or will he just recap what has happened so far?

Community colleges and higher education are likely to be a part of the speech, White House aides said. And teacher quality may also be highlighted.

Last year, President Obama asked Congress to pass a bipartisan reauthorization of the law. But it never happened, and now the administration is moving ahead with a waiver package that Obama’s own secretary of education thinks is stronger than any of the legislation under consideration. So, if I were a betting woman, I’d guess there won’t be much talk about NCLB this time.

Early pushback: Republicans in Congress are already pointing to what they see as flaws in some of the Obama administration’s edu-accomplishments. For instance, they note that a number of states are having trouble implementing Race to the Top.

And House Republicans say waivers will simply create confusion for states, since there could potentially be a number of different plans approved. They are also questioning the secretary’s authority to issue waivers. And they worry that the president’s plan for student loans could mean that taxpayers will end up holding the bag.

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