President Obama says kids and the economy will benefit from the changes he is making in education policy and from his plan to spend billions to upgrade schools and keep teachers on the job.
Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to push his $447 billion jobs bill, noting how it would help education. He also recapped steps he has authorized to let states opt out of unpopular student proficiency standards because Congress has been slow to update the 2001 No Child Left Behind law.
"If we're serious about building an economy that lasts, an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle-class jobs, we had better be serious about education," he said. "We have to pick up our game and raise our standards."
Obama said the package of tax cuts and direct spending he has sent to Congress would put tens of thousands of teachers back to work and modernize at least 35,000 schools.
He called on lawmakers to pass the bill "right now." The bill has received a cool reception on Capitol Hill.
He said No Child Left Behind was well-meaning but has serious flaws that are hurting schoolchildren. He said he took action to fix the problems because Congress has yet to do so. "Our kids only get one shot at a decent education, and they can't afford to wait any longer," he said.
Obama on Friday announced steps to let states scrap a requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014. But states can opt out only if they meet certain conditions, such as imposing their own standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers.
In Albany, state Education Commissioner John King said New York will consider asking for a waiver from the proficiency standards, according to Newsday. He said the state needs a better accountability system that supports schools. He said the issue will be taken up at the next Board of Regents meeting in October.
Obama promoted his jobs program Saturday night at the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus, responding to complaints from black leaders that he has not been doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent.
He told blacks to quit crying and complaining and "put on your marching shoes" to follow him into battle for jobs.
In the weekly Republican message, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called for a "timeout" on federal regulations that many in her party say are hurting the economy and keeping small businesses from expanding and creating jobs.
She promoted ideas for taming what she called a "regulatory behemoth," including requiring agencies to consider the costs and benefits of any new regulation before it is imposed. She suggested delaying certain costly new rules for one year.
"In sports, a timeout gives athletes a chance to catch their breaths and make better decisions," Collins said. "American workers and businesses are the athletes in a global competition that we must win. We need a timeout from excessive regulations so that America can get back to work."