Obama: Money alone cannot solve public school predicament

Monday, September 27, 2010 | 8:32 a.m. CDT; updated 10:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 27, 2010

WASHINGTON— President Barack Obama started the school week Monday with a call for a longer school year and said the worst-performing teachers have "got to go" if they don't improve quickly.

Bemoaning America's decreasing global educational  competitiveness, Obama  sought in a nationally broadcast interview to reinvigorate his education agenda. At the same time, the president acknowledged that many poor schools don't have the money they need and he defended federal aid for them. But Obama also said that money alone won't fix the problems in public schools, saying higher standards must be set and achieved by students and teachers alike.

Asked in an interview if he supported a year-round school year, Obama said: "The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense." He did not specify how long that school year should be but said U.S. students attend classes, on average, about a month less than children in most other advanced countries.

On other topics in a live half-hour television interview, Obama said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has not told him whether he will resign to run for mayor of Chicago, as is widely expected. Obama said he knows Emanuel must decide quickly to mount a serious campaign.

The president also sought anew to show that he understands the frustration of millions of people coping with a slow economy — and high joblessness — some 20 months into his term. He said that even if people know he is working hard to fix their problems, what they expect from him is "something concrete" to help them get a job and pay their bills.

Obama appeared on NBC's "Today" show in a live interview that focused on education.

Education is primarily the domain of state and local governments. But the federal government has leverage and uses it, for example, through the strings it attaches to poverty aid that thousands of schools depend upon to support their programming.

The president admitted that his own daughters, Malia and Sasha, couldn't get the same quality education at a Washington, D.C. public school that they currently get at their private school. The Obama girls attend Sidwell Friends School, an elite private school in the Washington area.

"The DC public schools systems are struggling," Obama said, though he added that the school district has, "made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform." Public schools in Washington have long faced criticism for their low test scores and high dropout rates.

Separately Monday, Obama announced a goal of recruiting 10,000 teachers who work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — over the next two years. In a statement, Obama said such education is vital to allowing students to compete against their peers in today's economy.

In the interview, the president said he wants to work with teachers unions, and he embraced the role they play in defending their members. He said that unions cannot and should not defend a status quo in which one-third of children are dropping out. He challenged them not to be resistant to change.

The president endorsed the firing of teachers who, once given the chance and the training to improve, are still not serving students well.

Associated Press Writer Julie Pace contributed to this story.




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Ellis Smith September 27, 2010 | 10:52 a.m.

Well that's refreshing! Someone from the federal establishment admits the patently obvious: money alone won't solve all our problems.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 27, 2010 | 11:38 a.m.

It's fool hardy to accuse trained, certified caring teachers as incompetent until our society addresses the fact that many students attend public schools in a learning impaired stae of mind due to drug and substance abuse. This, coupled with family and media instilled attitudes of being selfish, hedonistic, anti-education oriented and the lack of good Parents-Teachers-Administrators-Students Associations in place from Kindergarten through High School sets a tone where even the best teachers' abilities are hampered.
Increasingly schools are attempting to drug test their student in an effort to curb the use of drugs by students which obviously leads to increased disciplinary problems and interferes with teachers and administrators ability to carry out their educational mandates. This paper will attempt to briefly cover the issues that a blanket drug testing policy will raise. In addition, it will give some helpful tips regarding how to handle litigation in instances when a challenge to this type of drug testing policy occurs.")
("Teens who use drugs have lower levels of commitment to their education, higher truancy rates, and declining grades
Teenage brains are still developing. Studies link:
– Marijuana use with long-term deficits in verbal skills
– Methamphetamine with slower cognitive response
– Ecstasy with long-term memory impairment")

(Report Comment)

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