Education in the State of the Union

By Jarett Fields

Jarett Fields

Jarett Fields

On Tuesday night, President Obama offered his sixth State of the Union address.

Key issues were unemployment, the Affordable Care Act, growth in American business investments, and equal pay for women.

While brief, his references to education throughout the speech were encouraging.

Here are a few.

Obama said, “Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy — problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.”

Both Tennessee and Washington, D.C. have seen increases in student performance with the help of strong education policies regarding charter schools.

Referencing both Common Core State Standards and his commitment to increase quality Pre-Kindergarten programs around the country, President Obama remarked, “So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children.”

As a long-time advocate and supporter of charter schools, President Obama framed the work of innovation in high schools and explicitly stated his continued efforts to prepare students for college or careers.

“We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career,” he said.

Other important references to education included, ensuring that higher education is affordable so that students are not burdened by loan debt.

And, reminding the nation of his promise to connect 99% of students to high-speed broadband over the next four years by working with technology and telecommunications companies like Microsoft, Apple, Sprint, and Verizon.

The President’s State of the Union was a reminder that amid all the struggles of the middle class, the divisive partisanship in Washington, and the mounting necessity for social, economic, and business innovation, we are still moving forward.

One portion of the year’s speech stood out more than others though, it was a clarion call to all who would beleaguer or stifle American progress.

“But America does not stand still, and neither will I.

So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

This conspicuous reference to last year’s government shut down earned loud and extended applause.

Mostly from those in attendance who, like numerous Americans, were frustrated with the deafening effect of partisan politics that spread out across the country from Washington, D.C.

I’m willing to bet that during his speech writing sessions, there may have been some talk about just being plain old ‘fed up’ with the forty plus votes against the Affordable Care Act by Republicans.

Fed up is a familiar phrase.

It suggests someone is sick and tired of what has become practice or action without merit or solution. In other words, pointless behavior.

Overall, the President’s State of the Union was an optimistic appraisal of America’s future.

My hope for Wisconsin is that we too have a ‘fed up’ moment with regard to education and begin to implement policies and take action that will make way for our own optimistic appraisal of children’s access to quality education in the state.

Correction: In last week’s article titled, “Doing better for all children,” attrition to a possible moratorium of new charter schools was given to Nashville leaders.

The call for a moratorium rested solely with Nashville Councilman Steve Glover.