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Education remains a top priority

March 5, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

It is obvious to thoughtful Americans that President Barack Obama was correct when, in his speech to a joint session of Congress, he stressed that improved educational opportunities need to be provided in our country. What is not so plain is precisely how to provide them.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has some ideas about that. We hope Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Obama give them the thought they deserve.

Byrd met with Duncan on Monday, to outline some of his concerns about education at all levels.

Two of the concerns Byrd made have received a substantial amount of attention - though it should be noted that promising strategies to address them seem lacking. One involves abuse of drugs and alcohol by students. The other concerns ensuring that educators are well-versed in the subjects they teach.

A third point made by the senator from West Virginia seems to have received comparatively little attention. According to a news release from Byrd's office, the senator encouraged Duncan "to take a good look at opportunities to strengthen community colleges and vocational schools throughout the nation."

We agree wholeheartedly - and note that Obama himself addressed the issue. During his speech this week, the president noted that "a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity - it is a prerequisite. Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma."

Obama went on to say: "I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship."

Clearly, Byrd and Obama are on the same track. A four-year college degree isn't for everyone. Yet some type of higher education is important.

The question implied in Byrd's suggestion to Duncan - and in Obama's speech - is whether government at all levels is placing enough emphasis on community colleges, vocational schools and other post-secondary education. It is an issue our leaders, from the Obama administration on down, should consider.



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