Last night, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address, which focused heavily on income inequality, education, and strengthening the middle class. Below are selected highlights of the speech from America Forward, a nonpartisan initiative of New Profit that advocates for public policy to catalyze social innovation and social entrepreneurship.
The Republican response was given by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and touched on the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation; breaking down trade barriers to boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs in America; and ironing out tax loopholes to lower taxes.
America Forward's highlights of the President's speech include:
High school and college graduation rates are at all time highs.
We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.
The White House and Congress must work together to lower monthly payments for student loans.
I want to work with this Congress to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.
Congress must pass privacy legislation to protect our children's information (student privacy).
And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.
Proposal to create more childcare slots and a child care tax cut of $3k per child.
In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have: it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America, by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.
Congress must pass legislation to allow workers to earn seven paid sick days a year.
Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. 43 million workers have no paid sick leave. 43 million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.
Community college should be free for all students.
By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s sure not smart for our future. That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero. Keep in mind, 40 percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load ofdebt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.
Proposed increase in paid apprenticeships and recognizing improvements in the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships, opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education.
Progress has been made in lowering the crime and incarceration rates but more needs to be done to reform the criminal justice system.
We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. And surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us.