Obama cites Georgia as proof that pre-k works. Calls for College Scorecard and redesigned high schools. Real goals or rhetoric?

President Obama praised Georgia for its pre-k program in his speech. (AJC)

President Obama praised Georgia for its pre-k program in his speech. (AJC)

In his fifth State of the Union address, a buoyed President Obama called for making “high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”

Citing Georgia as an example, the President said states that have treated early childhood as a priority have children who “grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

He called proposed cuts to education and job training a terrible idea, saying, “Most Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents, understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” While saying that Washington should not make promises it can’t keep, he added, “We must keep promises we already made.”

“After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?

Obama focused on the need to train Americans for jobs and promoted the role of education in improving personal fortunes and those of the nation.

He outlined a national push to educate children earlier.

“Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.  And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.

In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job.  Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job.  At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this.  Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.

Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education.  It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.  But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.  But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.  Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.

And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.  But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

The audience featured the faces of gun tragedies, including the parents of a high school student gunned down walking home from school.

Hadiya Pendleton’s parents sat with First Lady Michelle Obama. Hadiya, 15, was killed in a park walking home from her Chicago high school. The 15-year-old student and majorette had just performed a few days earlier at the Obama inauguration with her high school band. On Monday, two suspects were charged in her death.

Seated next to Jill Biden was Kaitlin Roig, the Newtown first grade teacher who hid her students in the bathroom to save them from Adam Lanza’s rampage, which killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Gabby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman seriously injured in 201 by a gunman at a supermarket appearance, was also in the audience for Obama’s speech.

On gun violence in schools and in the country, Obama made his most emotional appeals of the evening:

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.

But this time is different.

Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the Second Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs are tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.  If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. More than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton.  She was 15 years old.  She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss.  She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.  Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.  They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight.  But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country.  We should follow their example.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

66 comments Add your comment

Charles Douglas Edwards

February 12th, 2013
10:26 pm

May God Bless the United States of America and President Barack Obama !!!

Great speech Mr. President.

Mikey D.

February 12th, 2013
10:42 pm

Sadly, when it comes to eductation this president has been very heavy on the rhetoric and VERY light on real solutions. He’s been a huge disappointment, eduactionally speaking.

Mikey D.

February 12th, 2013
10:43 pm

correction: educationally

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
10:44 pm

rhetoric – as always.

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
10:45 pm

God save us from the Obama. we damn sure won’t do it ourselves.

crankee-yankee

February 12th, 2013
10:48 pm

Rubio’s response is a weak finger-pointing exercise it seems. And who’s idea was it anyway that the opposition party should “respond” to the state-of-the-union address?

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
10:51 pm

been going on as long as I can rememeber

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
10:52 pm

makes me wonder just how well kids in his community organized district did in Chicago.

td

February 12th, 2013
11:04 pm

Maureen,

Is the redesigning of the High Schools Obama talked about exactly the same direction Dr. Barge is taking our High Schools in?

Bernie

February 12th, 2013
11:22 pm

Governor Deal the President just gave you an opportunity to strengthen your re-election chances for a second term for lumping an undeserved praise, for something you deserve no credit for.
Please recognize this opportunity for what it is and reverse your Non participation decision in the Obamacare health plan.

To reverse that decision at this juncture would endear you to a sizable block of Democratic
Votes that are truly undeserving, However, in light of your realization of the error of your misguided ways, you will do what is best for ALL citizens of the State Of Georgia. This window of opportunity has a short shelf life. To do it this week, will bring you some scorn from the RIGHT, but will improve the possibility of a second term win in short order.

Ashley

February 13th, 2013
12:19 am

We have had free Pre-K in this state for 20 years. And we are last in HS graduation. How is this a good program?

t_height

February 13th, 2013
12:44 am

@Ashley: The 20 years is about the right amount of time to actually do the study. You can’t do the study before the first group of kids who received the free Pre-k program graduated high school. You have to start the test when they first started the Pre-k program until when that group graduated High School and college. Which would take about 15-20 years.

t_height

February 13th, 2013
12:49 am

Its also not the Pre-K program that the graduation rate is reset, its this new formula the state decided to go with. This formula is only keeping just a little under half of the students in the state to not graduate on time. I’m glad I made it out of high school before it was put in place. Also its been you Governor and not the Pres. for the reason of horrible education in this State.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
4:52 am

Did he really say the “G” word in reference to education? Hey President Obama, Germany does not practice targeted killing assassination. Germany also practices due process. You should take note.

In a recent interview with Bill Gates, Gates repeatedly says “the Scandinavian countries do it the best way” (health care and education). He means Sweden, Finland, and Norway (yes I have been there as part of my work in a prior career – lots and lots of water, caribou and reindeer). Gates says this more than once in the interview.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
4:57 am

bootney, you mention the blind leading the blind, Obama Mr. powerhouse from Chicago going to tell everyone about education and gun control. He makes some nice ideas in this speech, too bad they have absolutely nothing to do with his policy of this “Race to the Top” fiasco from his basketball buddy who was appointed to power by an investment banker (fact and truth).

Obama says a lot of nice stuff. For example, “Healthcare? Done. (smile)(applause)(role play)”

Pride and Joy

February 13th, 2013
5:00 am

This is soooo true “Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.”
That’s a few hundred bucks PER CHILD.
The average middle class family has 2 to three children. We especially canot afford the preschool AND the after care costs because we have to work full time while paying heavy taxes for our filthy, dirty lying stealing Dekalb board of education wasting and stealing our taxes.
There is more than enough money for public schools in the Atlanta metro area. It just doesn’t make it down to the kids. It is stolen by the top.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
5:05 am

Reading the above from Obama is like reading an emotive cartoon. Seriously, he is much using the propaganda technique of using emotion. I do not trust this man as far as I could pick up and throw a Chevy Impala (not at all).

Hey Mr. Obama, Germany has zero higher education debt, none. Every time you promote college in the USA, what you are really doing is asking another person to take on an average of $25k in debt. The USA is the only country in the entire world doing this debt-based higher education (with the exception that banker run Britain is trying to copy the US system), currently at $1 trillion dollars existent higher education debt. Interest payment alone on that is about $350. per every man, woman, child, baby, and breathing human with a pulse in the USA.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
5:12 am

$350. per person per year.

Let’s do the numbers, Kye. One trillion dollars divided by 314 million people (population of the USA) = $3185. per person in the country. @ 6.5% interest, the annual interest payment per person is $207.

Okay, I was a little off. The annual interest payment alone on existent education debt is $207. per every man, woman, child, baby, and human with a pulse in the USA. -About the price of good teeth cleaning. Oh, in Austria and Germany, that too is covered in the national health care system.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
5:29 am

Makes me think of when GW Bush kept chewing his teeth and saying “Let’s bring people together.” And about the same he was ready to say something else, someone would come up to the side of him and whisper in his ear, “Let’s bring people together.”

Always made me think of the human lines to the railway box cars to the concentration camps. Bring people together and do what?

Mr. Obama, I really do not want to hear about lip gloss and Fig Newtons. You can use repetition, appeal to emotion, act like you’re my next door neighbor with strategic “y’all” speech, use patriotism and “Amerca” and even go so far as to appeal to what I “deserve,” however, sir, I recognise this salad of formal techniques of propaganda.

Anonymous for this one

February 13th, 2013
5:31 am

I don’t mean this ugly, but If you can’t afford day care, you can’t afford to have kids.

There is a reason why birth control is called family PLANNING.

Aw

February 13th, 2013
5:40 am

The answer is not to spend more money on education, it’s to take out the old secular humanism crap, and start holding kids and parents accountable for their grades and behavior, place God back in our system, and an entirely new curriculum based on these things. If the media and the government does not like it, too bad, it is best for our children.

liberalefty

February 13th, 2013
5:40 am

liberalefty

February 13th, 2013
5:43 am

thank god ROMNEYS not in charge…then women will have to ceded control of their wombs to the gop..

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
5:45 am

Hey Mr. Obama, if you legalised / decriminalised drugs and treated it as a healthcare problem, if you stepped to the plate and did whatever is necessary to remove the illegal marketplace for street drugs, this would cure the gang problem which is based upon monies from selling street guns and is the source of the gun-play and type murder you reference that happened a mile from your home. As long as the CIA is importing heroin from the growing fields they supervise in Afghanistan, you might as well open government run dispensaries where the buyer has to show ID, be of age or under doctor care to buy their prescribed drugs since they are an addict. Having government dispensaries would remove the “cool” from dealing drugs, would make competition, and would de-power the money in the sale of street drugs. It would also bring in tax monies. But the main thing is that it would de-power the drug gangs that co-opt urban youth. The reason they have so much gun play is because of the drug business and dealing in cash and getting or not getting paid is settled with guns. This is why the urban youth are armed, it is an accessory to their drug business, any economist can see and is so clearly described in the book, “Freakonomics.” There is also study after study showing that drug use does not go down in the current system. The murder you reference is due to that urban youth are armed as part of their drug business. Therefore, interrupt or destroy their market it you wish to relevantly or effectively address your concern about the killing near your home.

Private Citizen

February 13th, 2013
5:46 am

another typo: which is based upon monies from selling street drugs

cris

February 13th, 2013
6:15 am

~~~word in edgewise~~~~~

cris

February 13th, 2013
6:17 am

State and Feds need to decide what they want from public education….are we gonna continue to tell every child that they need to go to college? That’s how it is right now in our high schools….and for God’s sake, if you’re going to tell us what to do, fund it completely…has yet to happen in the state of Georgia. I’ll leave the rest of the political ranting to Private Citizen……

teacher&mom

February 13th, 2013
6:54 am

Under RttT, there is a STEM grant available for high schools to redesign their programs. Unfortunately, most of the grant money in GA has been awarded to Charter Schools.

HS Math Teacher

February 13th, 2013
6:56 am

About Pre-K for every kid in the nation….Mr. President, with all due respect to your office, we have about a 16.5 Trillion dollar debt. Many states are sinking with unfunded pension obligations and health costs. To heck with Pre-K, how bout funding extra teachers to teach the kids who should have repeated 5th grade math, 6th grade math, 7th grade math, and 8th grade math! Are we going to continue to flunk-em & dunk-em in the 9th grade? Are we the only ones with guts to look the Parents in the eye and tell them that we will not make a 64 final grade a 70?

About redesigning high schools…. see above.

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
7:15 am

I’ll give him this – he’s a bold liar. and even better propagandist.

I’m curious if a doubling of gas prices, 10%+ unemployment, and inflation the change some of you were looking for? not to mention the first POTUS ever to claim the right to use drones or anything similar on our own people – here?

I’m long past hope, I’m just trying to keep what little change I have left

suzy q

February 13th, 2013
7:18 am

He failed to mention that the Ga pre-K is funded by lottery income. Now lets see…..who buys lottery tickets in the state? Predominantly poor people and people on public assistance! i see it everyday. I thought Obamvit using GA as an example was laughable. This state is consistently at the bottom in the nation in several categories, including test scores and HS graduation rates.

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
7:24 am

considering how he “redesigned” healthcare and the economy…..ah, no thanks. the HS system is sick enough. no point in deliberately making it terminal

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
7:27 am

just realized what this reminds me of: Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

for those of you who have no idea what the Cultural Revolution actually was, the public library has all the information you could ask for

Bob

February 13th, 2013
7:32 am

Obama can push whatever he wants but head start has shown to be a major fail. And no matter how great a program looks on paper, many big city school systems will still be rum by the Beverly Halls and Cheryl Atkinsons of the world. And Bernie, Obamacare will be a bigger fail than head start. Does it sound ironic that a guy from Chicago is telling us how to improve schools while and reduce violence ? Can Obama show us where he has improved Chicago ?

Maude

February 13th, 2013
7:37 am

The idea of a Pre-K program is a great one. The problem is that the model used in Georgia is not a good one. The kids play all day. Pre-K teachers are not allowed to plan and teach much needed skills. I teach kindergarten and this year alone I have 6 students that attended the Pre-K program that are in February of Kindergarten unable to do the do beginning kindergarten work. They did not learn anything in Pre-K and neither did their parents. The parents do not do anything at home to help their child in school. However, I have had to complete many applications for these students to recieve Social Security benefits. The parents have learned that if their child is not doing well in school they can recieve this extra money free and clear every month. Unless we start holding parents accountable nothing will change.

bu2

February 13th, 2013
7:48 am

For all his talk about pre-K isn’t he just recreating Head Start, which was proven by studies to have no long run impact?

He talks about colleges which are one thing America does exceptionally well and which contribute to jobs through their research, which his funding priorities will de-emphasize.

He says nothing about Junior High/Middle School which is where American students really start falling behind and which sets the stage for dropouts in HS.

Its all the feel good stuff and not the things that make a long run difference.

Pardon My Blog

February 13th, 2013
7:49 am

Blah, Blah, Blah – more big lip service from POTUS, sorry but there are some pre-k teachers who really should not have the distinction of “teacher” at all. Alot of these pre-k progrrams are just state run day care and do nothing to prepare the kids. They just enrich the daycare owner. Responsibility begins with the individual and at home.

Jerry Eads

February 13th, 2013
8:06 am

Ashley brings the actual importance of Pre-K to the fore. An ephemeral increase in grades for a year or two in primary school claimed in a recent study of the Georgia program is irrelevant. What we know can happen, WITH PROPERLY OPERATED PROGRAMS FOR LOW INCOME CHILDREN: lower grade retention, higher graduation, less incarceration, greater employment.

In fairness, it’s really tough – and expensive – to follow kids long enough to find out whether Georgia programs have had these sorts of outcomes. But we (a) decided to provide “free” access to any child regardless of income (arguably an okay choice except that had to have locked out many of the poor kids who would have benefited), (b) did not require curriculum we knew to be effective, and (c) did not have the foresight to build in an information system that would enable us to see whether we were making a difference and to fix things that weren’t working well.

I have no doubt many of our programs are superb. For others, “free” daycare is not a bad thing. But we could do better.

Fund us and leave us alone

February 13th, 2013
8:10 am

Fund us and leave us alone. I don’t want nor need anymore “programs” as I already have a bookshelf full of them.

V for Vendetta

February 13th, 2013
8:16 am

I think I’ll have to write off this blog since it seems to be hijacked by conspiracy theorists and morons.

Brasstown

February 13th, 2013
8:21 am

How far back does the current trend go of having folks out of the recent media headlines appear as guests at the State of the Union? No criticism of the people themselves, but I sometimes wonder if these folks feel like they have been slimed by this whole PR stunt? Shirley (”and don’t call me Shirley”), there is someway our country can honor good people in some other format.

WOW

February 13th, 2013
8:33 am

Pre-K only works as a baby sitting program for some families that don’t participate in the child’s education. Georgia schools still rank near the bottom nationally. Parents need to be held responsible for a child and their education but this president seems to blame others for faults of his administration and of the poor American families. Very poor president when it comes to ability to lead. IDIOT….

S

February 13th, 2013
8:38 am

My son did not attend pre-K and yet he has been on Honor Roll every year since!

Kim

February 13th, 2013
8:47 am

From reading some of the comments, I do understand the concerns. I try my best to see the good in any elective official. If you, the people in GA care so much about education, then stop putting people in office that don’t value your thoughts and concerns. Since GA has had a Republican governor, education funds have been cut. What do you blame it on? The housing market failure? The parents that don’t value education? Rich people that make decisions that only benefit them? Come on people in GA, the President can’t improve GA’s education status; only we can by putting people in office that care. It starts at home, local schools, school boards, and government offices. I suggest that you take your comments to people in GA that can make a change. Start with the Governor’s office….Ask him to put a person in the State education department that really knows education. Do you ever wonder way other states fair in education better that GA? Could it be that their standards of education is higher or school employees are paid better. I do know that when people are asked to work harder for less, the drive for success is down…. Let’s be honest, people work for money first, then gratification. One thing for sure other states are moving on and we still stuck.

notevensurprised

February 13th, 2013
8:55 am

yes pre-k does work, but only to a specific degree what the president fails to include is positive results drop off by the 3rd grade and that is due to the lack of parental involvement…the “use it or lose it” factor…and on top of that the president had never enuff to mention georgia in his speech redarding educational achievement. what he failed to realize is georgia is 49th out of 50 states in academic achievement. well thinking about it it was a very shrewed move because that what he and the other goergia democrats want is a dumb electorate show they don’t/can’t think for themselves and be told who to vote for and why. in the case of rep lewis he needs dumb, welfare voters to stay in power with continued unfulfilled promises of racial equality, crime control, and improved education. but in the real world there is access to every sector of the economy (i have yet to be prevented from voting, refused service, obtained and advance degree-currently working on another one), crime in the black community (especially black-on-black crime) is destroying the black communites, he represents some of the most crime-ridden areas of atlanta, the illiteracy/high school drop-out rates for blacks is approx 40%, gun violence is the leading cause of death of black males between the ages of 18-34 and yet he does very little if anything to address the devistation in his own district but yet everytime he gets a chance it’s “I MARCHED WITH DR. KINNNNNG”…rep lewis, those days…oh wait let me use your venacular….”does day be done long gone in dat past….dr. king, he be dead right like over fitty years ago”…it’s time sir you do what you wee sent to washington to do and that is work to clean up your district…stop the gun violence in your district….every month the same amount of people are killed in atlanta that were killed in newtown (not trying to dimminish what happened there in any way) and yet you stick your head in the sand because i guess they don’t count because they are only BLACK!!!

Old timer

February 13th, 2013
9:10 am

I agree with several here, let us strength what we are already are trying to do. Get rid of the federal department of education and put that money back in local hands. Strengthen high school programs. Improve contact with parents for k-3 to teach them better

DS

February 13th, 2013
9:52 am

Pre-K programs help, but they are only part of the solution. The state of Georgia has reduced per-student education funding by 25% in real terms over the past 10 years. The Georgia legislature is starving public education. That’s why Georgia continues to lag the nation in education results.

JAdams

February 13th, 2013
9:56 am

Obama is a Joke

bootney farnsworth

February 13th, 2013
10:11 am

Pre K is a great thing when you can afford it – we can’t.

but even if pre K is all that, the failures at the MS and HS levels negate it

A Conservative Voice

February 13th, 2013
10:25 am

@JAdams

February 13th, 2013
9:56 am

Obama is a Joke

You left out “BIG”.