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Educators encouraged by President Obama’s focus on opportunity agenda

State of the Union address shines spotlight on working families and ways to give them a leg up

WASHINGTON - January 20, 2015 -

President Barack Obama tonight addressed the nation in his annual State of the Union address. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

"Tonight, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully about the tough choices and decisions he has made on behalf of the American people to get the country’s economic engine moving again and to put more Americans back to work, while keeping an eye finishing strong during the remainder of his administration the work he started.

"We are encouraged that the president again chose to shine a spotlight on education. We agree with him that education is an economic priority and elevating the issue before Congress is an explicit acknowledgement that the road to the middle class runs directly through our nation’s schools regardless of the zip code in which students live. 

"Coupled with his call for laws to strengthen not weaken unions, the president’s proposals to expand access to high-quality early childhood education, expand child care benefits, triple child care tax credits, increase in minimum wage, and his call for more Americans to have access to paid leave, will give more working families a leg up to move into more solid economic footing.

"We also applaud the Administration’s effort to make college more affordable for more students, especially low-income students. Education is and always has been the gateway to success and, unfortunately, far too many students are graduating with mountains of debt. At a time when post-secondary education has become even more important, students and their families are scrambling to pay for that education.

"The stakes are high for working families. They continue to work harder and harder to make ends meet. That’s why we welcome the president’s efforts to expand the middle class and close the persistent economic disparity gap. This now is more important than ever as a new report confirms what educators have been experiencing for years in their communities, schools, and classrooms—the shameful fact that more than half of all students enrolled in public schools today are living in poverty. This is America and we expect – and demand – better.

"We also are glad to hear that the president will continue to insist on Congress to fix our broken immigration system. This is the morally right thing to do for our students and their families. Educators know from experience that family unity plays a critical role in student success. Yet a growing number of public school students live in fear that our nation’s immigration policies will break up their families, forcing them to choose between their country and their loved ones. Keeping families together is essential to keeping America strong.

"We believe what President Obama outlined tonight makes common sense, moves the country forward, and provides more opportunities for Americans now and for future generations. We look forward to working with President Obama and with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to enact this opportunity agenda.

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The National Education Association ( is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT:  Miguel A. Gonzalez