Money alone isn’t the cure for America’s ailing school system, President Obama says. Speaking to the Today Show’s Matt Lauer in the Green Room of the White House for nearly 30 minutes, Obama said that additional funding tied to significant reforms – including a longer school year and lifting teaching as a profession – is a much-needed fix.”We can’t spend our way out of it. I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down,” explained Obama, invited to appear by NBC as the network launched its weeklong ” Education Nation” initiative.
“Obviously, in some schools money plays a big factor … ,” Obama said, pointing out that schools in the poorest areas often don’t have up-to-date textbooks. “On the other hand, money without reform will not fix the problem,” Obama said.
Obama said his administration’s “reform agenda” includes increasing standards, finding and encouraging the best teachers, decreasing bureaucracy and deploying financial resources effectively. Teachers who fail to live up to expectations need to be given a chance to improve, he said, while those who do not “have to go.”
Obama repeated his support for a longer school year. He did not specify how long that school year should be, however he noted that U.S. students attend classes, on average, about a month less than children in most other advanced countries.
“The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense.” He added it could “make a difference” in student performance.
Obama says his administration’s Race to the Top initiative has been one of the “most powerful tools for reform” in many years. Through the program, states compete for $4 billion in funding by highlighting their plans for reform.
The president said he wants to work with teachers’ unions, and he embraced the role of defending their members. But he said unions cannot and should not defend a status quo in which one-third of children are dropping out. He urged them not to be resistant to change.