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What Would a Second Obama Term Look Like on Education?

By Alyson Klein — October 24, 2012 2 min read
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President Barack Obama has talked a lot on the campaign trail about his education record—but not as much about what he would do in a potential second term.

Yesterday, the Obama campaign put out a big, glossy brochure with ideas for next steps, including:

• Cutting tuition growth in half over the next ten years; recruiting and preparing at least 100,000 new math and science teachers;
• A plan to “strengthen public schools in every community,” in part by expanding Race to the Top to school districts
• Offering states waivers from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act;
• Using community colleges as economic development engines.

None of the ideas outlined in the brochure are brand new—and at least one of them, Race to the Top for districts—is going to happen whether or not Obama wins a second term. But it makes sense for Obama to highlight some of the proposals still on his to-do list, to give voters an idea of where he wants to take education policy.

As districts struggling to finalize their applications know, Congress has already provided $400 million for the district competition, and the U.S. Department of Education has already crafted the rules. The dollars are scheduled to go out the door by the end of the year, no matter what happens on election day. Still, if Obama is re-elected, there could be additional rounds of Race to the Top, which could conceivably go to school districts.

And granting states waivers from parts of the No Child Left Behind Act isn’t a second-term idea, it’s already well way underway. Waivers for districts in states that didn’t apply are a whole other matter.

When it comes to slowing the growth of college tuition, the Obama administration already has a bunch of ideas on the table—in fact there’s even a proposal to create yet another iteration of the administration’s signature Race to the Top franchise, this time to reward states for their efforts on higher education. So far, Congress has yet to bite, in part, I’m guessing, because of the program’s $1 billion price tag.

The proposed competition would reward states that maintain their own spending on higher education, improve alignment between K-12 graduation requirements and higher education entrance standards, and seek new ways to curb costs without sacrificing educational quality.

Mr. Obama has also floated the idea of tying some federal college aid—specifically campus-based aid programs, such as Perkins loans—to college outcomes, including graduation rates for at-risk populations, such as disadvantaged students, and the ability to keep tuition in check.

As for the math and science teacher proposal, anyone paying attention to the campaign has probably heard it—the president mentioned it in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination this summer. So that’s not a new idea either, although, so far, Congress hasn’t acted on the proposal.

The community college idea isn’t new either—it was part of a recent budget proposal. But it too, has not made it very far in a Congress bent on curbing costs. More here.

What else might be in the hopper for Obama’s second term, if it happens? Comments section is open.

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