Barack Obama on Thursday said education was “the economic issue of our time”, linking America’s declining public schools with its struggles to remain competitive. Pointing out that America has been dropping steadily down the international league tables, particularly in mathematics and the sciences, Mr Obama made a coded plea for America’s teachers’ unions to comply with the controversial “Race to the Top” reforms he is pushing.
He pointed out that America now ranks 12th in the proportion of its people who graduate from college compared to first place a generation ago. “If we want success for our country, we can’t accept failure in our schools,” Mr Obama told the National Urban League in a speech. “I know some argue that during a recession, we should focus solely on economic issues. But education is an economic issue – if not the economic issue of our time.”
The president’s address comes amid a growing restlessness among ordinary Americans, who tell pollsters they fear the recovery from the recession will fail to create the high-paying jobs to which people were accustomed in earlier decades. Mr Obama’s economic advisers concede it will take years to build “new foundations” for the American middle class who were suffering their own “personal recessions” – in terms of stagnant or declining incomes – way before the 2008 financial meltdown.
Frederick Hess has more.