Diann Woodard Response to President Obama’s State of the Union

In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Diann Woodard, president of AFSA released the following statement:

“Last night, the president’s speech centered around opportunity, action and optimism.
He stated that one’s ability to get ahead should not be pre-determined, but based on hard work and ambition,”

“The president’s call for a much needed investment in our nation’s infrastructure is particularly important for our nation’s schools. Far too many of our classrooms lack the latest technology and equipment, and at the very worst are unsafe and dangerous. It is a grave injustice when many of our nation’s prisons are in better condition than our schools,”

“Additionally, increasing investments in education, particularly early education is fundamental to closing the opportunity gaps we face as a nation and overcoming inequality. The earliest years of a child’s life are crucial and ensuring all children have access to a high-quality pre-k program is critical, especially for those born into deprived circumstances,”

“Regarding Race to the Top, the president was right that teachers and principals are making great strides in preparing students for the new economy. However, it is often these educators are making great strides in spite of Race to the Top, not because of it. While the president did not specifically mention the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), many states are currently implementing reform policies that are, in some instances, harmful to educators, students and schools. AFSA recently delivered its position on the Strengthening America’s Schools Act to the Senate, which included detailed recommendations for principal training and evaluation. We believe input from school leaders is absolutely necessary, if this law is going to be successful,”

“We appreciate the president’s stated pledge to raise the federal minimum wage for federally funded workers via Executive Order. We hope Congress will do what’s right and follow suit, which would reach millions more,”

“By the same token, it is critically important that we strengthen workers’ retirement security. Traditional pensions have steadily declined, while many workers have less income to save for retirement. We appreciate the president’s remarks regarding the importance of retirement savings, and we will review the MyRA plan. However, if we are serious about ending inequality, we must end tax breaks and loopholes for corporations and urge Congress to commit to strengthening, not cutting, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Our nation’s deficit must be reduced in a balanced, fiscally responsible manner, and in a way that does not harm children, the elderly and our most vulnerable citizens,”

“Finally, we stand by President Obama and his call on Congress to extend emergency unemployment benefits to more than 1.6 million jobless workers. These benefits are a lifeline for many searching for work and failing to extend these benefits hurts families, children and our economy.”