By Meghashyam Mali - 08/18/12 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama on Saturday called on lawmakers to pass legislation to help cash-strapped state and local governments hire teachers and said Republican budget cuts would set back America’s education system.
In his weekly address, Obama noted the coming start of the school year in much of the country and warned that scaled-back education budgets had left fewer teachers on the job.
“This year, several thousand fewer educators will be going back to school,” said the president. “Think about what that means for our country. At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America; these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year.”
Obama has called on Congress to authorize federal funding to help states retain public workers, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, a key element of his jobs agenda, but the measures have found resistance from House Republicans.
“Part of the jobs bill that I sent to Congress last September included support for states to prevent further layoffs and to rehire teachers who’d lost their jobs. But here we are – a year later with tens of thousands more educators laid off – and Congress still hasn’t done anything about it,” Obama said in his address.
The president said Republicans plans to trim the budget would further set back the nation’s education system.
“The economic plan almost every Republican in Congress voted for would make the situation even worse. It would actually cut funding for education – which means fewer kids in Head Start, fewer teachers in our classrooms, and fewer college students with access to financial aid – all to pay for a massive new tax cut for millionaires and billionaires,” he said. “That’s backwards. That’s wrong. That plan doesn’t invest in our future; it undercuts our future.”
Obama touted his own efforts on education saying he had pushed for states to improve standards, “invested in math and science education,” and “given states more flexibility on No Child Left Behind.”
“We’ve reformed the student loan program to put students before big banks, and increased financial aid for millions of young people – because in America, higher education cannot be a luxury; it’s an economic necessity every family should be able to afford,” he added.
“I am only the President of the United States today because of the chance my education gave me,” Obama concluded. “I want every child in America to have that chance.”