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. …