President Barack Obama announced an education initiative Monday to recruit 10,000 science and math teachers over the next two years.
The initiative will focus on recruiting primarily science, technology, engineering and math teachers, according to the White House.
Obama said in a statement the initiative is part of his administration’s long-term goals for education.
According to Graeme Zielinksi, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Obama focused on education as a senator from Illinois and this initiative shows education is also a priority for his administration.
“When I came into office, I set a goal of moving our nation from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science education,” Obama said in a statement. “Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing our students to compete in the 21st century economy and we need to recruit and train math and science teachers to support our nation’s students.”
The initiative should be completed in two years according to the White House, the timing of which could be calculated to align with Obama’s bid for reelection in 2012.
“It’s smart to have a specific goal,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “People will be able to measure the success or failure of the plan.”
Recruiting more math and science teachers is intended to increase literacy, improve the quality of math and science classes in general and expand career opportunities for underrepresented groups, according to the White House.
Programs like the new initiative have also been historically successful, Heck said.
In the 1950s, President John F. Kennedy put into motion a plan to emphasize the importance of science, math, and technology, similar to Obama’s initiative now, Heck added.
“Obama hopes to inspire the same sort of spirit that Kennedy did 50 years ago,”Heck said.
According to Heck, Kennedy’s plan was in response to Russian space exploration, while today much of East Asia and Germany have surpassed the United States in scientific progress, and encouraging math and science education would ultimately lead to long term economic growth for the United States.
While the plan may parallel historical successes, some are still skeptical of its potential for success.
“It’s one thing to establish a goal, it’s entirely another thing to allocate resources,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
It is not a secret that education in Wisconsin and across the United States has faced devastating budget cuts, according to McCabe.
Even with a stamp of approval from the president, McCabe said, this plan will only hold weight if state and local legislation encourages its goals.
Heck and McCabe agree the timing of the announcement is not coincidental.
The White House released the plan the day before Obama is scheduled to visit the University of Wisconsin campus in an attempt to rally Democratic support in the upcoming November election.
Both gubernatorial candidates have emphasized improving K-12 education as part of their campaign.