President Barack Obama placed education at the center of a broad strategy to bolster economic mobility and combat poverty—calling on Congress in his State of the Union speech to approve previously unveiled initiatives to expand preschool to more 4-year-olds, beef up job-training programs, and make post-secondary education more effective and accessible.
“Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old,” said Obama, whose education agenda in his second term has shifted away from K-12 toward prekindergarten and college affordability. “As a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own. They know we can’t wait.”
Obama used his speech to mount an indirect defense of the common-core standards and a more spirited, direct defense of the program that spurred states to adopt them: Race to the Top. This, too, from an administration that has been blamed for threatening the future of the Common Core State Standards by supporting them—and from a president who hasn’t talked much at all about Race to the Top in recent major speeches. He credits his Race to the Top competitive-grant program with helping raise standards—and performance (which many may argue it’s too soon to tell).