President Barack Obama said the U.S. can’t sacrifice spending on education as government works to reduce record budget deficits.
Trimming money for schools will harm future economic growth by failing to provide workers with necessary training, Obama said at a Boston school.
“There’s no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills they need to succeed,” Obama said at TechBoston Academy, a public high school in Boston that emphasizes the use of the most recent technology in classrooms.
Obama has made education a centerpiece of his agenda to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness. Amid a debate with Republican lawmakers over how to trim the $3.7 trillion budget, the president is proposing to shift money from other departments and programs in order to provide more money to fund his education priorities. Among these are increasing the number of science, technology and mathematics teachers and producing an additional 8 million college graduates by 2020.
“Even as we find ways to cut spending we cannot cut back on job-creating investments like education,” Obama said. “We cannot cut back on the very investments that will help our economy grow.”
The administration forecasts the deficit will hit a record $1.6 trillion this year. Republicans are pushing to cut $61 billion from spending for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, which Democrats argue would slash vital programs.
In his visit to TechBoston, Obama highlighted the importance of schools, communities, businesses and philanthropists working together to improve student performance.
The academy, a Boston public school, was founded in 2002 with backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It has received support from companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, who introduced Obama at the event, said education is the top priority for the foundation in the U.S.
“Nothing means more for the future of our country” than improving the education system, Gates said.
In his fiscal 2012 budget, Obama proposed putting $90 million into a fund for education technology that he said will help spark a transformation in schools.
The money would help the U.S. education system catch up with other areas of society that have been transformed by advancements in technology, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
“Technology has transformed how folks do business; it’s transformed how folks interact socially,” Duncan told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “But technology, frankly, hasn’t had that kind of impact on the education space yet.”
The president is planning multiple trips around the country in the coming weeks to talk about education, said Jen Psaki, the White House’s deputy communications director.
On March 4, Obama visited a Miami high school, where he told students that the future of the nation’s economy depends on schools being able to produce highly skilled workers.
The administration wants to coordinate work among businesses, philanthropists and local governments to improve schools.
“Many sectors of the economy have utilized public-private partnerships,” said Melody Barnes, the White House domestic policy director. “The education sector shouldn’t be any different.”
Establishment of the education technology fund requires congressional approval. Money would be awarded to groups outside of government that have good ideas for using technology to improve education. Duncan said it would be similar to the Defense Department technology research program that led to the creation of the Internet.
“There’s tremendous untapped potential,” he said.
Before returning to Washington tonight, Obama attended a $1 million fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He kicked off fundraising for the 2012 elections last week in Florida, where he raised $1 million for Democratic Senate candidates.
Obama told donors he needs their support so that the country makes the right spending decisions in the future.
“This has to do with whether the decisions we make now ensure the American dream is strong, vibrant for the next generation and the generation after that,” Obama said. “That’s what’s at stake.”
Obama, an avid basketball fan, met briefly with some members of the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics and head coach Doc Rivers at the museum before the political event. The meeting was closed to the news media.