By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just in time for Valentine’s Day, President Barack Obama and the nation’s teacher unions have patched up their differences and renewed their political love affair.
The reconciliation was apparent during last night’s State of the Union address, in which the president presented a series of union-friendly education proposals that he wants to pursue during his second term.
The speech marks a significant shift in the president’s approach to improving the nation’s education system, notes the Huffington Post.
“His first term focused on drastic changes to K-12 public schools, while his second term will likely emphasize higher education and early education,” the Huffington Post reports.
The Post continues: “It’s not just a structural shift. It’s political. Many of Obama’s and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s K-12 fights alienated one of their party’s core constituents, the teachers unions. The administration publicly sparred with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers over issues concerning teacher quality and the use of standardized tests.”
But those “teacher quality measures have all but dropped off the administration’s billboard agenda for the president’s second term,” the news site notes.
Instead, Obama is pushing one of the unions’ favorite proposals: universal preschool.
“Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” Obama said. “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on.”
The Huffington Post notes that while Obama’s plans “lacked specifics,” a similar plan that’s been kicking around Washington D.C. would provide every child with two years of preschool, at a cost of $10,000 per child.
Such a proposal would cost up to $100 billion, which helps explain the teacher unions’ interest in expanding preschool. If Congress were to approve a universal preschool plan, it would result in a huge influx of preschool teachers, most of whom would be forced into becoming dues-paying members of national teachers union.
It would be a bonanza for Big Labor, and would help offset the losses teacher unions have experienced in recent times.
On Thursday, President Obama is expected to elaborate on his preschool proposal during a speech at an early education center in Georgia, the Huffington Post notes.