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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Time for president to put focus on education

When the White House announced President Barack Obama would be visiting Madison, the public's eyes immediately turned to the Kohl Center and Monona Terrace. Both are standard venues for big occasions, and both played host to Obama during his campaign. To everyone's surprise, the president chose Wright Middle School for this visit to talk about our primary education system.

Sitting in southern Madison, the charter school could be the most illustrative example of Obama's ideals of education reform. 87% of Wright students are minorities, and 85% of all those enrolled come from low-income families. Education is incredibly important when dealing with situations like this. A good school will make all the difference to the growth and development to its students. Since the presidential election, Obama has been a strong advocate for affordable, quality education that is available to all.

Among all the segments of his education initiatives, K-12 is receiving the most attention, mostly because of its size. The Race to the Top fund alone would provide $4.5 billion in rewards to boost school performances. The Teacher Incentive Fund would ease the problem of teacher retention, especially at high need schools. Once fully in place, both programs could benefit thousands of schools like Wright.

While the plan to visit Wright Middle School electrified the local community, Obama seems to have forgotten to address another crucial area of his reform—higher education. One year ago, a historic youth voter turnout helped Obama become the first black president in American history. Many young people were impassioned by his call for community services and the promise of more financial support.

Though we have seen progresses like increases in the Pell Grant, the higher education part of Obama's reforms remain largely elusive to college students. We are aware of the ability to do community service hours in exchange for financial aid, for example. But very few of us know how to go through the entire procedure and benefit from the initiative. During his campaign, Obama was incredibly communicative. He boasted a certain transparency that we as voters weren't used to. He constantly reached out to us, but this stopped rather abruptly after his election in November.

We haven't seen any major push for education-oriented legislation from the president yet, which makes his Madison visit pertinent. If you are eager for answers to your educational inquiries, today may not be the best time. Only about 300 people have been invited to the event, with most invites going to middle school students and educators. Last year, when Obama campaigned for change at the Kohl Center, 20,000 people joined the discussion.

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Obama is the first sitting president to visit Madison since 1950. But if he can't be more accessible to the local community, the one-day stop could only be a short-lived sensation. 

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