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American Jobs Act
President Barack Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan (Photo by Obama-Biden Transition Project)

Mixed reactions are emerging to President Barack Obama’s education pledges in his introduction of the American Jobs Act last night, outlined further by Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday afternoon.

Duncan, currently on a tour of four cities, says he’s seen ballooning class sizes and major cuts to art programs and extracurricular activities. “To have a chance like this to reverse those trends and make the right investments, both in terms of teachers but also the capital side where there’s so much need,” said Duncan.

The $447 billion dollar bill would include $60 billion in additional stimulus dollars to “modernize” up to 35,000 schools and help, as Obama said in his speech, “put teachers back in the classroom where they belong,” by saving the jobs of 280,000 teachers.

Some reactions:

– The modernization aspect of the proposal has garnered some support. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, said “President Obama’s school modernization proposal would help schools develop the technological infrastructure to strengthen instruction and prepare our students for success in college and a career. This investment in schools today will pay large dividends in the future.”

– Others are skeptical of both the bill itself and its likelihood of getting through Congress, stating that Obama couldn’t pass a similar bill past a Democratic dominated Congress last year. Critic Rick Hess stated on his blog that the new stimulus package is “merely another push to kick the can down the road on hard but important choices,” and will serve as only a band aid to larger systemic problems.

– Alyson Klein of EdWeek, who also believes the bill will have a hard time passing Congress, wrote on her blog, “Administration officials have said this jobs package has pieces that have garnered broad bipartisan support, but the education piece seems more like a re-election campaign promise than a serious legislative proposal.”

– Chris Tessone wrote on the blog Fly Paper, “There is no reason to expect anything but business as usual from another round of subsidies. When the new money goes away, districts will still not have adjusted to the new normal, to their students’ detriment. More subsidies just protect the status quo at great expense to taxpayers.”

Echoing Obama’s message, Duncan and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes stressed bipartisan support of the ideas in the legislation that will be introduced next week.

Whether the bill will have any success at getting through Congress is yet to be seen, but it seems clear that this is a big agenda for the Obama administration. Please share your thoughts on whether you think the American Jobs Act will help advance quality education in America.

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Nick Pandolfo writes for The Hechinger Report. A native of New York City, he majored in education at Eugene Lang College and later taught ESL for four years in New York, China and South Korea. Before entering...

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