Government spending cuts and a rapidly changing global economy over the last several decades have put US students into a difficult position. This has called for several initiatives to take place, depending on what President Obama refers to as "political courage" in a speech in which he urged Congress to approve more money for education as a partisan debate over federal budget priorities is set to begin.
The President cited an oft-studied blend of modern education — P-TECH. Students attending Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a government-industry collaboration, are receiving the kind of math and science-heavy education essential for the next generation of workers, according to Obama. Additionally, he suggested that government dysfunction too often block spending that could expand programs vital to economic development efforts despite new education methods.
"We've got to have the courage to do it," Obama told an audience of ebullient students, teachers and officials. "We also need some political courage in Washington. We don't always see that."
According to Scott Wilson of the Washington Post, Obama's appearance in Brooklyn, New York, which came ahead of a pair of scheduled fundraising events, was designed to begin marking out his spending priorities before congressional leaders start budget negotiations. The out-of-town journey also came amid continued controversy in Washington over the bungled web site launch of Obama's signature health-care program.
According to White House officials, Obama had earlier held a conference call discuss his budget priorities ahead of the talks. His visit to Brooklyn, New York was his first outside Washington since the government shutdown ended. In its aftermath, he has called for bipartisan cooperation to make the government work effectively and to repair the damage caused to the broader economy when it doesn't.
Republicans and Democrats have an interest in replacing deep, across-the-board spending cuts, known popularly as the sequester, with a negotiated budget according to White House officials. Nonetheless, the officials said that the budget talks scheduled to conclude in mid-December, and a subsequent congressional vote, will determine how much either party is willing to disappoint its most loyal voters in exchange for compromise.
Obama's visit to Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn was an example of the innovative education program he believes the next generation of American jobs will demand — and an example of how education dollars might be spent. In his budget this year, he proposed a staggering $300 million to better prepare high school students for college and a workforce being reshaped by technology, invention and the knowledge those require.
In his argument, Obama framed the increased spending on education in terms of economic competitiveness in an increasingly-crowded global marketplace for both ideas and qualified workers.
"If you don't have a good education, it is going to be hard for you to find a job that pays a living wage," he said. "And, by the way, other countries know this."