Commentary on the Weekly Address

Once again it is time for the President’s Weekly Address.  And once again, Barack Obama shows the nation that he really does not understand the economy, nor education.  Oh, and he blames Congress for everything that’s wrong. 

This week, I spent some time talking with college students about how we can make higher education more affordable.  And one of the things I told them was how proud I was that they were making that investment in themselves – because in today’s economy, the best predictor of success is a good education.

I’m so glad he’s proud of them for making “that investment in themselves.”  He’s so father-like.  How comforting that is.

Seriously?  Spending time with college students to talk about how to make college more affordable?  That’s like asking the customers on the car lot how to build a cheaper car.

How about getting at the real root of the problem?

First and foremost, we have over-flooded our colleges and universities with people who really don’t belong there, borrowing money they’ll never be able to pay back, for earning degrees that will never benefit society.  Too many people taking up space is a supply-demand issue.  If we stop wasting the limited space on those that might be better of in a vocational program, that would be a good start.

That’s not just true for our individual success; it’s also true for America’s success.  New jobs and new businesses will take root wherever they can find the most highly-educated, highly-skilled workers.  And I want those workers to be American workers.  I want those good-paying, middle-class jobs to take root right here.

Again, limited space – supply/demand.  We do have the best universities.  That is why people come here for other countries for an education.  But if there is no incentive for them to stay (good, high paying jobs), they will take that education elsewhere.

So it should concern everyone that right now – all across America – tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off.  In Pennsylvania alone, there are 9,000 fewer educators in our schools today than just a year ago.  In Ohio, the number is close to 7,000.  And nationwide, over the past three years, school districts have lost over 250,000 educators.  Think about what that means for our country.  When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up.  Our students start falling behind.  And our economy takes a hit.

The point is: teachers matter.  One study found that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can change the course of a child’s life.  So the last thing our country needs is to have fewer teachers in our schools.

I’m all for good teachers.  He’s right that they are important.  But a free education for all doesn’t equate to people valuing a quality education.  If you get something for nothing, you are less likely to put a high value on it.

If kids don’t understand what a value their educational opportunity is, they will never put the appropriate value on it.  Sadly, that’s the case for a large number of America’s youth.

Our problems with education are more the result of a breakdown of the American family.

Throwing more money at schools won’t fix that.

Now, I know states are still going through some tough times.  I realize that every Governor is dealing with limited resources and many face stark choices when it comes to their budgets.

But that doesn’t mean we should just stand by and do nothing.  When states struggle, it’s up to Congress to step in and help out.  In 2009 and in 2010, we provided aid to states to help keep hundreds of thousands of teachers in the classroom.  But we need to do more.  That’s why a critical part of the jobs bill that I sent to Congress back in September was to help states prevent even more layoffs and rehire even more teachers who had lost their jobs.

The more we relinquish control of local issues to the federal level, the more we set ourselves up for tyranny.

If education is federalized, how much influence do you think you will have in your local issues? How much power will your local school board have to remove ineffective employees (teachers)?  Administration will report to federal oversight and you will have no choice.

But months later, we’re still waiting on Congress to act.

When it comes to this recovery, we can’t fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world.  But there are plenty of things we can control.  There are plenty of steps we can take, right now, to strengthen our economy.  Putting teachers back in our kids’ classrooms is one of those steps.  And there’s no excuse for inaction.  You work hard.  Your leaders should, too.  Especially at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.

Trying to make the nation’s economic problems about employing teachers might sound good as a populist argument, but it really has nothing to do with the root of the problem.

Just from a logical standpoint, pouring federal money into state education budgets to hire teachers will not result in a sustainable boost to the economy.

I know this is an election year.  But some things are bigger than an election.  Some things are bigger than politics.  So I hope you’ll join me in telling Congress to do the right thing; to get to work and to help get our teachers back in the classroom.  We can’t afford to wait any longer.

Thanks and have a great weekend.

That’s right – blame it on Congress.

Instead of focusing on the economic errors the Administration is directly responsible for, it’s Congress’ fault.