Obama Pushes Plan for Education Reform

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After spending most of his first 50 days in office focusing on the economy, President Obama spent Tuesday introducing his plan for improving America's schools.

Some of the president's proposals, including merit pay for teachers and removing limits on charter schools, are not popular with fellow Democrats.

Republicans are also concerned that Obama is trying to accomplish too much during a recession.

Click the play for CBN News White House Correspondent David Brody's report.  Also, click here to watch President Obama's comments on American education Tuesday.

From the stimulus, to healthcare, energy and now education, Obama is loading up the long term policy agenda. But is it too much too soon?

"Presidents have many problems to solve," said GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, "but no one ever suggested that the wisest course is to try to solve them all at once."

Obama, however, seems ready for the road ahead.

"I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time," he said Tuesday. "They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of civil war."

The president wants to restore America's top standing in education around the world, but says it will require more money.

Here's how he wants to spend it:

  • Improving pre-kindergarten programs
  • Higher standards for students
  • Merit pay for teachers
  • An emphasis on better charter schools
  • Money for effective dropout prevention programs
  • Expanding financial aid

Merit pay for teachers is the most controversial item. The Teachers Union has been a long-time opponent of the idea, saying it pits teachers against each other. But the issue gives Obama a chance to look like he's not toeing the party line.

"Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom," he said.

But money and government won't ultimately solve the problem. Obama says that's a parents job.

"Reachers, no matter how dedicated or effective, cannot make sure your children leave for school on time and do their homework when they get back at night," Obama said. "These are things only a parent can do."

The president also says he would like to see children in school more, whether that means a longer school day or a longer school year.

"I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not in my family, and probably not in yours," he said. "But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

And if you're thinking about dropping out of school? Obama says, "to any student who's watching... don't even think about dropping out of school."

The president's plan was long on rhetoric, but short on details as to how the White House would go about implementing the education plan.

The administration did not present a bill to Congress. Instead, the White House says they'll address education funding later this year.

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