What Obama's Re-Election Means for Education

By Sarah Butrymowicz; The Hechinger Report | MinnPost.com, November 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

What Obama's Re-Election Means for Education


Sarah Butrymowicz; The Hechinger Report, MinnPost.com


President Barack Obama's victory last week gives him a chance to build on the education policies he has pushed since 2009 and ensures that the federal government's role in education will not diminish over the next four years.

In his victory speech, he promised to expand "access to the best schools and best teachers" and spoke broadly about hope for America's future, particularly for children, but did not offer specific policy ideas.

"It's clear the Obama administration will continue to make education a priority," said Jeffrey Henig, a political scientist at Teachers College, Columbia University. "It's been a winner issue for them, even though teachers unions and some elements of the parent community are unhappy about some aspects."

Obama steered the conversation to education whenever possible throughout the campaign - even during the final presidential debate focused on foreign policy. In particular, he touted his success in passing Race to the Top, a competitive grant program that incentivized 46 states to initiate education reforms. He also hinted about what his second-term priorities will be.

An overarching theme

The need to invest more money in education, from early child care to colleges and universities, was an overarching theme of the president's campaign. Obama repeated several times that he wants to create two million slots in community colleges for job training and recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers.

"I want to build on what we've done with Race to the Top, but really focus on [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math]," he told the Des Moines Register on Oct. 23.

"And part of that is helping states to hire teachers with the highest standards and training in these subjects so we can start making sure that our kids are catching up to some of the other industrialized world [sic]."

Karen White, political director at the National Education Association (NEA), the country's largest teachers union, said she expects to see Obama focus on early education and college affordability during his second term.

Despite disagreeing with some of Obama's central education policies, such as tying teacher evaluations to test scores, both the NEA and the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, threw their support behind the president and urged members to volunteer for his campaign. While there may be lingering disagreements over specific reforms, White is confident that there will be cooperation between the unions and the White House. …

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