Barack Obama on Education (page 3)

Barack Obama on Education

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Updated on Nov 4, 2012

As with all bold political moves, this one isn’t without criticism. “People are claiming that the President and Secretary don’t have the constitutional right to trade regulations for reform. The lawyers say they do,” Cohen says. Regardless of the feeling on either side, Cohen says that until Congress reauthorizes NCLB, “waivers are the only way out.”

College Funding and Affordability

Obama hedged his bets on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a refundable credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of a college education is free for most Americans. He also planned to get aid money by using public instead of privately funded loan providers. Obama made good on these promises, and the results seem to be positive, especially for low-income students trying to get a college education.

The act of cutting out private banks and instead letting the federal government provide loans directly freed up billions of dollars to be put towards Pell Grants and into other post-secondary education grant programs.

An expansion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided an additional $17 billion over two years for Pell Grants. “When they expanded the maximum grant level, they expanded the number of students able to receive a grant and a lot more students are going back to school,” Cohen says.

Universal Preschool v One of Obama’s education goals was to create a voluntary, universal preschool program to help close the achievement gap before it starts.

Through the Race to the Top program, Obama has been able to put good preschool programs within reach for many families. The last in the series of competitive grant funds were set aside for states to develop universal preschool programs, with a focus on regulation.

Unlike public schools with districts and solidified funding streams, preschool education is funded from a melting pot of grant money, including the federal Head-Start program. Each source of funding has a different set of requirements, and this means that there’s “no one governance structure, no one set of requirements, and no one way that preschool teachers are trained,” says Jennings, leading to “uneven quality” in preschool education.

The Race to the Top money is intended to encourage states to create common standards and rules for regulating preschool. “It sounds bureaucratic, but what he’s proposing would go a long way to improving preschool education,” he says.

Improvements to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

In order to meet the science and technology needs of future industry, Obama wished to beef up opportunities for learning in these fields by recruiting better math and science teachers, developing math, science and technology curriculum at all grade levels, and changing the way these subjects are tested so that students are assessed based on their knowledge of the skills, not the facts.

Similar to the issue of universal preschool, Obama has been able to increase funding for programs that make education more STEM focused, but hasn’t been able to set much in law because of Congress.

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