What Obama has in store for education

Jennifer Spear and her husband are the type of family President Barack Obama says he hopes to help with his education plan.

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony.

“Our son graduated from high school in 2007 and the subdivision we moved into was never finished,” says Spear, who lives in Holly, Mich., and had planned to sell their home to pay for her son’s college education.

“The developer pulled out on us and left with 75 empty lots. The house is not worth selling,” says Spear.

Forced to look elsewhere for money, Spear’s son now attends Saginaw Valley State University on a state loan program and a small private theatre scholarship. He lives in a house the family bought as a foreclosure to cut down on college living costs.

Along with paying the mortgage for their son’s house, fees for school and living expenses such as books, food and gas, keep adding to the family’s debts.

“We are hoping that next year, our son can obtain his own student loan to cover what we cannot,” says Spear who works as an accountant in the construction industry. “The costs are overwhelming.”

What’s in the Obama’s Plan

In March, Obama made a White House speech on education, saying: “A far reaching overhaul of the nation’s education system is an economic imperative that can’t wait.”

As a candidate and now president, Obama has called for a sweeping $18 billion proposal covering birth to higher education. It includes reforms for teaching, funds for pre-school programs and college tax credits, as well as revamping the college student loan system.

Among the specific proposals in the plan:

  • A ‘Zero To Five Plan’ providing support for young children and their parents.
  • Increased funding for Head Start, the program for financially strapped families.
  • Increased funding for the No Child Left Behind program.
  • Support creation of more successful charter schools.
  • Increase pay for teachers with a reward/merit system.
  • Better teacher recruitment programs.
  • A $650-million increase in funding for technology.
  • A $4,000 tax credit for college expenses.
  • A streamlined college financial aid process and low-interest government loans.

Whether Obama’s plan will get the necessary buy in from different interest groups, such as teacher’s unions, which oppose merit pay, is unclear at this point.

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