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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS REGARDING THE COUNCIL OF THE GREAT CITY SCHOOLS MEETING

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE
March 16, 2015
Remarks by the President After Meeting with the Council of the Great City Schools
Roosevelt Room

11:51 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank the Council of the Great City Schools.  This is an organization that represents the superintendents, the board members and educators from some of the largest school districts in the country.  And we just had a terrific conversation about some of the extraordinary progress that’s being made at the local levels.

The good news is that we are seeing, as a consequence of some of the reforms that we’ve initiated and partnered with at the state and local levels, we’re seeing improved reading scores, improved math scores, improved graduation rates.  We’re seeing improvement in some of the previously lowest-performing schools.

And this organization I think has taken on the challenge and has been able to begin a process of turning school districts around and making sure that young people are getting the kind of education that they need to be able to compete in the 21st century.  That’s the good news.

The challenge that we face is that this is a monumental task and it requires resources.  And I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do in terms of helping schools to initiate improvements in how they train teachers, in how they engage kids in the classroom, in how they start moving education around math and science and technology; how they reach populations that are particularly difficult to reach; how they’re bringing new technology into the classroom.  But all that is dependent on a budget and approach at the federal level that says we care about all kids and not just some.

Now, the Republican House and Senate are about to put forward their budget.  My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child.  But I can tell you that if the budget maintains sequester-level funding, then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America’s schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000.  And that’s adjusting for inflation.  The notion that we would be going backwards instead of forwards in how we’re devoting resources to educating our kids makes absolutely no sense.

In addition, we’ve got a major debate obviously taking place about the reauthorization of the major education act that shapes federal policy towards our schools.  There is, I think, some useful conversations taking place between the chairman of relevant committee, Lamar Alexander, and Patty Murray.  But there’s some core principles that all the leaders here believe in:  Making sure that we continue to provide resources to the poorest school districts and not creating a situation where we can suddenly shift dollars from wealthy districts -- or from poorer districts to wealthy districts, or alternatively, that education aid suddenly can start going to sport stadiums or tax cuts at the state level.  That's something that these school districts feel very strongly about

Making sure that we continue to focus on low-performing schools and that they are getting additional resources.  Making sure that we are continuing to assess in a smart way, on an annual basis, how young people are performing, and that we're disaggregating so that we can see in various subgroups how young people are performing, to make sure they’re on track.  That's something that people here care very much about.

Making sure that we've got high standards and high expectations for all our kids, and making sure that we are providing the resources to teachers and principals to meet those high standards.  That's going to be important.

Making sure that we are investing in special education and English learning for large portions of our student population that may need extra help.  That's going to be critically important.

So the set of principles that are reflected in my budget and I hope will be reflected in the Republican budget -- but if it is not, then we're going to have to have a major debate.  We are making too much progress now in terms of graduation rates, improved reading scores, improved math scores, increasing standards, increasing access to the resources the kids need for us to be going backwards now.  And this is something worth fighting for.

So I am very grateful for all the folks here for the work they’re doing.  I hope that people get familiar with some of the stories of progress that have been made.  If you look at what’s happened in the D.C. public schools, or you look at the efforts that are being made in places like Fresno, which it’s a poor city in a poor school district, but despite that is seeing real strides; if you look at what’s going on in Cleveland where I'll be visiting tomorrow [Wednesday] -- these are school districts that, despite enormous challenges, have made real progress.

And the idea that we go backwards on that progress, in some cases for ideological reasons, as opposed to because of what the evidence says, that's something that -- that's not the kind of legacy we want to leave for the next generation.  And I'm going to continue to fight to make sure that this progress continues.

So I want to thank everybody who’s around this table and know that they’re going to have a strong partner in my administration.

All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:59 A.M. EDT