Obama's Education Initiatives: President's Plans for Local Schools

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US President Obama makes a statementAfter health care, Obama has planned new initiatives in education reform as well. From early education to college, the president wants to set forth new standards of affordable, quality education that will prepare our country's students to compete with the academic abilities of competitors from around the world. In order to strengthen our economy, says Obama, we need to support our education system. If you want to know how the president's plans will affect local schools, keep reading.

•    Cut wasteful programs: As the president said he wanted to do with health care, he wishes to cut wasteful programs that are sucking needed funding from more effective, promising education programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been entrusted with weeding out wasteful programs that drain taxpayer dollars unnecessarily.

•    Increase funding for local schools: WhiteHouse.gov reveals that $77 billion is going to help elementary and secondary schools support quality teachers, improve test scores and academic standards, prepare students for college, and turn around performance in low-achieving schools. This money is being offered to the states through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and would also award $5 billion to early education programs.

•    Raised the bar on graduation and college enrollment standards: Although Alaska and Texas have opted out of the group effort to improve standards that will help students prepare for college, and has challenged states to graduate all of their high school students at a level that is ready for college enrollment, by the year 2020.

•    States need to have greater responsibility evaluating and developing charter schools: President believes that charter schools are beneficial but also pose some risks to the overall education system in a city or district. He wants states to support the opening of innovative charter schools, but he also wants them to be more aggressive in evaluating the effectiveness of those types of schools. Charter schools that do not meet certain rules or standards should be closed.

•    Has left decision-making and curriculum-creation up to state and local officials: While some supporters and protesters of the education initiative believe that education reform involves too much federal control, there is one area that Obama prefers a laissez-faire approach. While states are accepting the previously mentioned stipend to rework their education systems, they are responsible for setting up new standards, curricula, teaching programs and testing processes that are supposed to improve education. The federal government will have no role in dictating those standards.

•    Offering Early Learning Challenge Grants to states: Early education is a key pillar for this initiative. In addition to spending $5 billion on new programs for early childhood education, he wants to set up an Early Learning Challenge Grant for states who have demonstrated their commitment to raising the bar even at this young level.  Additionally, various scholarships and grants program have been launched to empower women who are over the age of 50.

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•    Encouraging states to work together to set common standards for test scores and curricula development: One of the biggest criticisms of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program is that there is no consistency among states' standards for academic performance. Because the standards are different across states, students in one state may make the same grade as a student in another state even though they actually possess less knowledge. He wants states to work together to come up with a common set of standards, which would theoretically boost the national average of student performance.

•    Call for teachers: Teachers needed to be rewarded more but also given more responsibility, according to Obama. We need to start "treating teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable," he said in a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in March 2009. He has called upon Americans to choose the teaching profession and support a self-sufficient mentoring and education system for teachers that will improve the quality of local schools across the country.

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