Teacher Initiatives Are Critical, But We Can't Afford to Freeze Initiatives that Put Money Directly into Classrooms
Infrastructure Bank, 'Community College to Career Fund' Are Concrete, Doable Policies
WASHINGTON—Statement of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the release of President Obama's budget:
The budget put forth by President Obama is more than a set of numbers; it's a statement of his vision and priorities for our country. President Obama's budget rejects the cuts-only obsession of many in Congress, and includes several concrete, doable policies that will provide relief to Americans still struggling to get by today, as well as needed investment in our future. With education being one of only two federal departments receiving funding increases, it's clear that President Obama understands the intrinsic link between a strong economy and a strong public education system.
We applaud and support the president's focus on improving and strengthening the teaching profession, and on keeping educators off the unemployment lines and in the classroom. His budget follows the contours of his State of the Union speech, in which he made clear that teachers and their work should be respected. And the several higher education-related proposals, such as maintaining low interest rates on student loans, making the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent and supporting the maximum Pell Grant, go a long way toward making a higher education affordable for children of working families rather than a luxury for the few.
The budget also includes a proposed competitive, Race to the Top-style program for higher education institutions. Any effort to incentivize cost savings and efficiency through this type of program should not come at the expense of a high-quality education. That's why we need to make sure frontline educators are a part of a collaborative effort to provide an accessible, affordable, high-quality college education for all students.
Even with our economy improving, more needs to be done to put Americans back to work. President Obama's proposals to train and improve the skills of millions of workers for 21st-century jobs through his "Community College to Career Fund," to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and to establish a national infrastructure bank should be supported. The AFT has long been a champion of these proposals, as putting people to work is critical to the stable communities that are needed to improve the lives of all our students.
We are concerned, however, that the budget also proposes to flat-fund programs like Title I that go directly to support low-income children in the classroom. The New York Times recently made clear what frontline educators have long known—poverty has a tremendous impact on a child's ability to learn and grow in the classroom. According to a Stanford University study cited by the New York Times, the achievement gap between poor and wealthy children grew by 40 percent between 1960 and 2007.
With 3 million more children in poverty since the start of our economic crisis, we can't afford to freeze funding to Title I, while competitive grant programs that serve some, but not all, receive increases.
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