In a visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, President Barack Obama held a private town hall discussion concerning equal access to education and health care.
Held at ImaginOn, an educational library and children's theater, the meeting featured Obama discussing his own opinions on a variety of matters, as well as addressing questions brought to him by users of two blogs with large followings in the Charlotte area—BlogHer and SheKnows.
Obama began by discussing the issue of equal wages for men and women and the controversial Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it legal for employees to share compensation information. The goal of the proposal would be to offer such information to people who feel they may have been discriminated against, writes Sarah Kerman for The Duke Chronicle.
The President went on to say that one of the main issues pertaining to wage inequality is that there are more men than women currently taking positions in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – careers. In order to overcome this, Obama suggested increasing access to educational opportunities.
He suggested that access to early childhood education could offer STEM opportunities to children from an earlier age. However, he also noted that because the average childcare cost in the state is $16,000, many families cannot afford quality care. He noted that he would like to reform the current tax code in order to offer access to such education to more families, as children who do not receive these early learning opportunities arrive to elementary school at a disadvantage.
"We know [education] is the smartest investment we can make as a society," Obama said. "People say, well that'd be nice if we could afford it. But the truth is if we closed a few corporate tax loopholes that are not contributing to the economy right now, then we could afford it."
He went on to discuss the importance of offering quality child care for working families, saying that doing so will help the overall economic health of the country by ensuring that children grow up to be responsible, tax-paying adults.
"This should be one of our top budget priorities," Obama said in response to a Charlotte mother who said state Republicans had eliminated a tax credit she used to receive for child care. "Your son, if he's doing well, that means he's paying taxes, that means he's contributing to society. He's staying out of trouble. That's a good investment for me â¦ and we can afford this."
The rising cost of higher education was also discussed at the meeting. Obama took the opportunity to discuss how online learning options, improvements in the area of loan counseling prior to borrowing for college, and reforms to academic support systems are much-needed reforms.