“Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.” Although President Obama opened his January 28 State of the Union address with that reference to education, he did not put forth any new education proposals. Instead, he continued his push on previously announced initiatives focused on high school reform, high-speed internet connections for 99 percent of the nation’s students, early education, and increased access to higher education. The president also signaled that he would not wait on congressional action to move his agenda forward, declaring 2014 a “year of action.”
“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Obama said. “Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still—and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
In recent weeks, Obama has already showed a willingness to sidestep Congress. In November, he announced a new $100 million collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education to redesign high schools to provide high school students with education and training that combines rigorous academic and career-focused curriculum with work-based learning opportunities. Because the program, called Youth CareerConnect, is funded from revenues from the H-1B visa program, it does not need congressional approval.
Obama has also made progress toward his goal of connecting 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband by 2018. During his State of the Union address, he announced that companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, with support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), plan to connect “more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.” And at the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Digital Learning Day event on February 5, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to explain the FCC’s next steps on reforming the E-rate program to make it easier for applicants (see “Federal Communications Commission to Double Federal Funding for High-Speed Internet in Schools; FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to Offer Details During Alliance’s Digital Learning Day Event“).