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Obama defends education spending hikes

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Barack Obama speaks on education Friday at Miami Central Senior High School.
President Barack Obama speaks on education Friday at Miami Central Senior High School.
  • Obama says more education spending is needed to spur future economic growth
  • Obama reiterates his call for reform, but also praises teachers
  • The president appeared with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at a high school in Miami

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama defended his proposed education spending increases Friday, telling an audience of students and teachers in Florida that such investments are necessary to spur future economic growth.

"If we want more good news on the jobs front, then we need to make more investments in education," Obama said. "I am not willing to give up on any child in America. ... I do not accept failure."

Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 includes an 11% hike in federal education spending, to more than $77 billion. Republican congressional leaders are seeking to reduce federal spending on education, with many arguing it should be primarily a state and local concern.

Among other things, the administration has made a pledge to prepare an additional 100,000 science, technology, math and engineering teachers by the end of the decade. The White House also is pushing to make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $10,000 for four years of college.

Seeking a political middle ground, Obama has also stressed the need for reform and, more specifically, the need to remove poorly performing teachers and school administrators. He continued to do so Friday, calling the status quo "unacceptable."

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At the same time, however, the president also appeared to criticize at Republicans such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is trying to strip teachers and other public sector workers of the bulk of their collective bargaining rights.

Teachers are "feeling beat up" right now, Obama said. "I want to be very clear here. We are proud of what (teachers) do each and every day. We need to honor teachers."

The president appeared with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, at Miami Central Senior High School -- a previously underperforming school which has improved in recent years. The turnaround, Obama stressed, was done by implementing a reform plan in cooperation with the local teachers union.

White House officials noted that the school was awarded nearly $785,000 in federal School Improvement Grant funds to help finance its turnaround plan.

Obama has asked Congress for $900 million for a new round in the Race to the Top competition, which rewards states and localities that meet the administration's standards for educational innovation and outcomes.