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Obama Defends School Agenda Against Civil Rights,Union Critics

Criticisms of the federal Race to the Top education initiative partly reflect “a general resistance to change” and “a comfort with the status quo,” said President Barack Obama in prepared remarks for a speech today at the National Urban League in Washington.

Obama’s speech comes as plans to overhaul U.S. public education face opposition from his Democratic base, Congressional Republicans and state legislatures that could block implementation. The administration has succeeded in getting at least 29 states and the District of Columbia to sign on to common academic standards that would for the first time set shared performance goals for math and reading. Through the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has prodded states to lift caps on charter schools and link student achievement to teacher pay.