Secretary of Education Arne Duncan'a sixth annual "Back-to-School" bus tour picked up another rider on Monday – President Barack Obama – who had nothing good to say about the congressional Republicans. The president criticized the congressional GOP members for delaying the federal budget, which, if it is not passed by September 30, will force a shutdown, according to Jack Martinez writing for Newsweek.
"A society's values are reflected in where we put our time, our effort, our money. It is not sufficient to say we care about education, if we aren't actually putting resources into education," he said.
High schoolers and their families attended the town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, which was focused on college access and affordability. The Obama administration has begun a campaign to drive support for changes to federal policy on higher education. The president himself took on the effort to spread the word in favor of universal free community college and the recently built website College Scorecard. The website is a gathering place for data about the costs and curricula of approximately 7,000 US colleges.
The president pushed for high schoolers and parents to complete the new and easier Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), through which hopeful high school seniors can investigate a pool of $150 billion in federal financial aid.
Obama's Iowa visit takes place just five months before the Iowa presidential caucuses. When asked which candidate had the best education policy, the president answered that he would wait until the field narrowed to throw his support to a candidate. However, he did add:
"If you hear a candidate say the big problem with education is teachers, you should not vote for that person."
Obama answered another question concerning Ben Carson's statement in June in regard to the Department of Education monitoring some institutions of higher education for political bias.
"The idea that you'd have somebody in government making a decision about what you should thinkâ¦ runs contrary to what we believe about education," the president said, admitting that he did not know who had made the statement. "I don't agree that when you become students at colleges that you have to be coddled and protected from different points of view."
The president also said that children of illegal immigrants are America's kids by "every other criteria except a piece of paper."
President Obama appeared before about 1,400 Iowans at Des Moines' North High School, reports Rod Boshart for KCRG-TV.
Another central issue the president wanted to unveil was the change that will take place in 2016 allowing students to apply for financial aid in October as the college application process is getting underway rather than waiting until January. He continued by saying that the entire college financial aid process is "too complicated and time consuming" and causes students to "leave money on the table in a 21st century economy" where education is of utmost importance.
The Republican Party responded to the president:
"Whether it's Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party is out of solutions and are simply repackaging the same stale partisan attacks and old ideas," said a statement from Republican National Committee spokesman Fred Brown.
Toluse Olorunnipa, reporting for Bloomberg, says the president threw a few tomatoes at Republican candidates such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, both of whom have made critical comments about teachers and their unions.
"I can't tell you who to vote for," Obama said. "I can tell you who to vote against and that is somebody who decides that somehow teachers don't deserve the kind of respect and decent pay that they deserve."