Obama: Education reform and economic growth are tied

Pushing both his jobs bill and education reforms, President Obama said Saturday that if the U.S. is to have an "economy that lasts" educational standards need to be lifted. 

"Education is an essential part of this economic agenda," Obama said in his weekly address. "It is an undeniable fact that countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Businesses will hire wherever the highly-skilled, highly-trained workers are located."

The president touted the school construction plans in his "American Jobs Act." He said, if adopted by Congress, his proposals would "modernize at least 35,000 schools."

Obama also touted his ideas for reforming the No Child Left Behind education law. 

"If we’re serious about building an economy that lasts – an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle class jobs – we had better be serious about education," he said. "We have to pick up our game and raise our standards."

Obama on Friday announced that states could apply for waivers on the provision of the law that requires school proficiency in math and reading by 2014.

In order for the states to receive a waiver, the administration is requiring they adopt education policy changes the administration deems necessary.

The requirements ruffled the feathers of Republican members of Congress, who were quick to criticize the announcement because they feel the administration is exercising too much power on education.

Obama said his reforms allow more flexibility.

"It’s time for us to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future," Obama said.

"This isn’t just the right thing to do for our kids – it’s the right thing to do for our country, and our future."