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In State of the Union Address, Obama Stresses Education, Calls for Mandatory School Attendance Until Age 18

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January 25, 2012 02:59 pm

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During his State of the Union address on January 24, President Obama stressed the importance of education in driving the U.S. economy and called on states to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.

“When students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” Obama said.

Although he did not directly mention a revamp of the No Child Left Behind Act, he did discuss more flexibility for states and changes to testing.

Obama also called for better preparing workers for available jobs in science and technology, noting that business leaders tell him that they can’t find workers with the right skills. “That’s inexcusable,” Obama said. “And we know how to fix it.” He called for a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job and praised partnerships between companies and community colleges that were already up and running.

But Obama stressed that the commitment to skills and education has to start earlier to prepare individuals for the jobs of tomorrow. He called for resources to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best ones. In return, schools would be given the flexibility to replace teachers who are not helping kids learn.

Although he did not mention either directly, Obama referenced Race to the Top and the common core state standards that have now been adopted by forty-six states and the District of Columbia. “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning.”

To help tackle soaring college tuitions, Obama called on Congress to extend the tuition tax credit and give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years. He also asked states to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets and called on colleges and universities to keep costs down by redesigning courses to help students finish more quickly and make better use of technology.

As he has done in recent years, Obama asked for a plan that would provide a path to citizenship for individuals who want to “staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country.” He specifically mentioned students who came to the U.S. as small children and want to go to college, as well as individuals who came to the U.S. to study business, science, and engineering, but are sent home as soon as they get their degree to “invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.”

“Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship” Obama said. “I will sign it right away.”

Watch enhanced video of the State of the Union address with data and graphics or read a transcript.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.