Obama to Governors: Quit Cutting K-12, College Funding

By Sean Cavanagh — February 27, 2012 2 min read
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President Obama was visited at the White House by the nation’s governors today, and he used the occasion to chide them for making what he sees as harmful cuts to K-12 and college spending.

“Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state as the decisions you make about where to invest,” Obama told the governors, according to a statement. “Budgets are about choices, so today I’m calling on you to choose to invest more in teachers, invest more in education, and invest more in our children and their future.”

Obama’s remarks reflect one of his recurrent election-year themes. As November draws closer, he’s sought to draw a sharp contrast between his support for spending on K-12— much of it aimed at protecting school jobs—and federal and state Republicans’ calls for budget cuts in that area.

Republican governors in several states that could prove crucial to Obama’s re-election chances—including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—imposed significant spending reductions in K-12 over the past few years. In some cases, those governors have argued that the cuts were partly a result of the drying up of federal stimulus funding; in others, they’ve said they have simply held the line on spending during times of scarce government revenues—without raising taxes, which they said would harm their economies.

On the day of the governors’ visits, the White House released a document titled “Education Blueprint: An Economy Built to Last.” It touts Obama’s spending on schools—citing efforts such as the federal Race to the Top program—and lays out the depth of cuts to K-12 and college systems.

Republicans in Congress, and on the presidential campaign trail, have accused Obama of spending recklessly through the stimulus and other efforts. Some in the GOP have also argued that the federal role in K-12 has grown too powerful during Obama’s tenure.

In speaking to the governors, Obama said his policies have given the states more, not less, authority over education.

“I believe education is an issue that is best addressed at the state level,” Obama said, according to a transcript. “And governors are in the best position to have the biggest impact. I realize that everybody is dealing with limited resources. Trust me, I know something about trying to deal with tight budgets. We’ve all faced some stark choices over the past several years. But that is no excuse to lose sight of what matters most. And the fact is that too many states are making cuts to education that I believe are simply too big.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.