In his second State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said the nation’s future depends on improving America’s education system.
As the United States falls behind in education, other countries are focusing on teaching their children math and science — subject areas the U.S. lags behind in, Obama said in the Tuesday address.
“We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” he said.
Danny Englese, president of the Tempe campus Young Democrats, said he was pleased to hear the president talk about education.
“With the fast moving, high-tech world that we live in, it’s nice to see that we’re concentrating on this progression,” Englese said.
The president added that over the next decade, as baby boomers begin to retire from classrooms, the nation should prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, math, technology and engineering.
He followed this statement with a call for young people to choose teaching as their future career.
“If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher,” he said. “Your country needs you.”
The president also said that higher education must be attainable for Americans.
He called on Congress to make permanent a tuition tax credit worth $10,000 for four years of college.
The president was referring to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a tax credit for 2009 and 2010 that helped college students fund their education.
College Republicans President Tyler Bowyer said the president should have offered more solutions to fix the education system.
“How do we fund our higher education system?” Bowyer said. “Arizona does not have any more money, we have so many federal mandates. This year alone, the University is going to [make] a large cut. How are we going to pay for it?”
Earlier this month, Gov. Jan Brewer proposed cutting $170 million from Arizona’s university system, which included taking $80 million from ASU’s state funding.
“This is beyond [the] College Republicans; it’s beyond party politics,” Bowyer said. “We cannot afford for our tuition to go up with no jobs at graduation.”
Obama also mentioned that America’s education system has fallen behind other countries, saying the U.S. ranks ninth in college graduates per capita.
“By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” Obama said.
Despite the president’s comments on education, Obama did not spend as much time on the subject as Englese had hoped.
“I, as someone interested in politics, would love to have heard [the president] talk more about [education],” he said.
The president also briefly spoke of undocumented students in the American school system, but fell short of mentioning the Dream Act — legislation that puts undocumented students on a path to citizenship. It has failed in Congress several times, including in last year’s lame duck session.
“Interesting he should insert that after the failing of the Dream Act,” Bowyer said.
Bowyer said undocumented students should be located in the university system, put through a citizenship process and charged with at least out-of-state tuition.
Englese said he was glad the president brought up the issue of undocumented students.
“I really wanted him to talk more about the immigration issue,” Englese said. “It was clear what he was talking about but I feel the point could have been mentioned further.”
Aside from education, the president also mentioned working with Republicans on spending freezes and tax cuts.
“If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future,” Obama said.
In the Republican response to Obama’s speech, Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin said the GOP wants to work with the president to control federal spending, but blamed the president’s policies for contributing to the nation’s debt.
“He engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt,” he said.
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