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January 30, 2014

OUR VIEW: Obama rehashes education initiatives in Union address

STILLWATER, Okla. — President Barack Obama didn’t announce any new education initiatives in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. He focused, instead, on programs he proposed last year that didn’t gain any traction.

He re-emphasized expanding pre-K to all 4-year-olds, a competition to redesign high school, boosting Internet connectivity in schools and making college more affordable.

In the 2013 State of the Union address, Obama proposed a federal-state partnership that required a $100 billion federal commitment to expand preschool to every 4-year-old whose families make below 200 percent of the poverty line.

Neither Obama nor U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could get Republicans to buy into the plan. Tuesday, he put the onus on Republicans when he said, “Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. As a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.”

The president emphasized vocational and career education. Nontraditional schools that can tailor curriculum to the hiring needs of nearby industries were endorsed, but Obama didn’t dedicate any additional federal funding for career education. The Oklahoma Department of Career/Tech is recognized as a national leader in working with employers to develop a work force for a particular industry.

Stillwater residents always are concerned about higher education and rising tuition costs.

Since 1985, the price of higher education has increased 538 percent as state legislatures reduced their financial commitments to education. Tuitions increased, but in some institutions, quality declined. Courses became easier, grading standards relaxed and a degree from those universities was devalued.

Oklahoma State administrators have worked diligently to keep tuition costs reasonable and maintain academic integrity.

The university’s $1 billion fundraising campaign earmarked money for student scholarships and attracting the best professors to OSU.

In his State of the Union speech, Obama vowed to make college more accessible and would push universities to raise graduation rates. The president promised to find ways to encourage people of color to stay in school and graduate.

Obama made little headway on the education initiatives he proposed in 2013.

It’s probably good he is focusing on finishing what he started instead of creating additional initiatives that won’t be approved.

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