On March 10, 2009 President Obama addressed several concerns regarding education. In his speech he addressed three main issues. He spoke out in favor of merit pay for rewarding excellence in teaching, removing the limit on charter schools and urging for a longer school day and school year.
The speech he gave to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce called for stopping the "finger-pointing" between liberals and conservatives. He cited his own party and supporters as being at fault for being against the idea of rewarding teacher quality and not forgetting to mention republicans in failing to provide new investments in education.
The National Education Association did support Obama through the 2008 election and has long been opposed to the idea of merit pay. However, back on July 5, 2008 at a speech made in front of the NEA, Obama had told them of his support for rewarding teachers for improving student achievement. Furthermore, a year earlier in July of 2007 Obama originally came out in favor to merit pay for teachers to the NEA.
The MEA has voiced that they are willing to consider the plan outlined by Obama because as long as the merit pay is not directly linked to a single test, such as the MEAP, they will consider it. Obama from the beginning of favoring the reform of merit pay argued that there should be consideration for rewarding teachers who offer to mentor other teachers and those who continue or improve their training to benefit their students in the classroom. Additionally, it is assumed that there will be incentives for teachers to work in low-performing schools in urban and rural areas as well. A spokeswoman for the MEA, Kerry Birmingham stated that "we are not universally opposed to merit pay."
The American Federation of Teacher's also stated that, "the AFT stands ready to work with the President to make America the leader in public education."
In the speech made on Tuesday he challenges the states to come up with plans to improve teacher quality to improve students education.
The items outlined in President Obama's speech carry real weight with the amount of stimulus money that is available to schools across the country. It appears that President Obama, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are paving a road for reform in education that includes the controversial role of merit pay and removing the limits on charter schools. Both of these advances will greatly effect Michigan schools. There have been numerous attempts by charter school advocacy groups like the Michigan Association of Public School Academies to remove the caps placed on charter schools and this is evidently good news for their cause. However, removing the caps on charter schools is a constant threat and issue that the MEA is against. It is clear K-12 education may greatly change in the coming year(s).
To read more information on Obama's stance on merit pay and his speech:
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/8335627.html July 5 2007
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-of-the-President-to-the-Hispanic-Chamber-of-Commerce/ His speech on March 10, 2009