Obama pushing education as an issue that binds Democrats, Republicans

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; 11:16 AM

Can the president and the tea party agree on education?

President Obama, looking to pass legislation this year on education, is pushing it as an issue that can join the two parties. He announced his proposals for the federal budget at a school on Monday, met with a bipartisan group of members of Congress about education on Thursday and will tout his education priorities at an event in Hillsboro, Ore., on Friday.

What remains unclear is how much he can sell his vision to new members of the House, nearly all of whom are Republicans. Obama wants to expand the federal role of the government in education beyond the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, effectively tying additional federal money for states to requirements that they allow charter schools, set up systems to reward teachers based on how their students perform on standardized tests and improve the quality of those tests.

Some Republicans, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), have supported a larger federal role in education. But the new class of House Republicans came to Washington determined to pull back the influence of Obama and the federal government.

They have pushed for cuts in education funding, which could limit Obama's proposals.

So far, the debate has not been fully joined. Obama and his aides are trying to build support among Republican leaders on the issue, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who served as education secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration, and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. But any kind of agreement will have to have the sign-off of conservative activists both in and out of Congress.

Obama on Friday

The president will talk about education and innovation at an Intel semiconductor manufacturing facility in Hillsboro. He will be shown around by Intel Chief Executive Paul S. Otellini. On Friday, the White House named Otellini to its new council on jobs and competitiveness, headed by Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric.

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