Obama said technology would be key to expanding higher education.

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, President Obama called for more investment in education, innovation, and infrastructure—setting up a showdown between his administration and Republicans in Congress who are seeking billions of dollars in cuts to domestic spending.

Addressing a nation still reeling from the tragic shooting rampage in Tucson earlier this month that targeted U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and left six people dead, including 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, Obama called for a members of both political parties to work together in addressing the challenges facing the nation.

“Each of us is a part of something greater—something more consequential than party or political preference,” the president said. “We are part of the American family.” Breaking with tradition, members of Congress adopted a bipartisan seating arrangement that saw many political adversaries sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in an unusual demonstration of unity.

But the spirit of compromise might be short-lived once lawmakers get back to business, as there are stark differences in how each political party views the solutions to the nation’s challenges—which include steep budget deficits, aging infrastructure, stagnant academic achievement, and competition from other nations for 21st-century jobs.

How these differences play out will have important implications for U.S. schools and colleges, as well as their students.

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Recognizing the need to scale back government spending, Obama called for a five-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending. But he wants to exempt spending on education and research from this freeze.

“I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without,” he said. “But … cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.”


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