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Obama Touts Education; Brown Blasts Health Reform

While the rest of Washington, D.C., is buzzing about health care, President Barack Obama discussed education in his Saturday radio address, though Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) stuck to the theme du jour of reform in the GOP response.

Obama announced a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act. Brown, speaking in his first Republican weekly address, chose to stay on message by lambasting partisan procedural maneuvering in Congress and the ongoing health care debate.

“Today, times are even tougher across our nation when it comes to our economy. Nearly one in 10 Americans are still out of work,” said Brown, who was sworn in last month. “And still, the President and Congress are focused on ramming through their health-care bill, whatever it takes, whatever the cost.”

The House is scheduled to take up the Senate-passed health care reform bill next week, a process that could spill over into the weekend. Obama even postponed a foreign trip by three days in order to be in Washington, D.C., to help corral enough House Democrats to vote in favor of the measure.

Brown criticized Democrats for pivoting from their jobs agenda to passing health care reform before the Easter recess, a legislative goal the freshman Republican noted was inevitable but distasteful.

“Somehow, the greater the public opposition to the health care bill, the more determined they seem to force it on us anyway,” Brown said. “Their attitude shows Washington at its very worst — the presumption that they know best, and they’re going to get their way whether the American people like it or not.”

Brown suggested Congress “drop this whole scheme of federally controlled health care, start over, and work together on real reforms at the state level that will contain costs and won’t leave America trillions of dollars deeper in debt.”

Added the Republican, elected in January to the seat once held by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D): “This, above all, was the message that the people of my state sent to the President and the Congress in the election over a month ago.”

Obama, casting his education proposal as something to promote jobs and the economy, warned that other nations “are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills.”

The president also offered veiled criticisms of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program and suggested education reform should focus on the state level.

“What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts,” Obama said.

Obama noted that schools showing improvement would earn additional funding under his plan, rather than stripping dollars from underperforming schools as is currently the case with No Child Left Behind. Obama’s education outline is an expansion of the Race to the Top program his administration implemented this year, which also awards additional money to reform-minded schools.

“As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century,” Obama said, tying all those goals to education. “Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.

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