U.S. President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for an additional $1.3 billion in grants to public schools. The president says keeping America's students competitive with their peers around the world is a matter of economic necessity.
President Obama visited an elementary school near Washington on Tuesday, and said he is expanding his "Race to the Top" program, in which states compete for federal grants to improve their schools. "Over the past few months, we have seen such a positive response that today, I am announcing our intention to make a major new investment, more than $1.3 billion, in this year's budget to continue the Race to the Top," he said.
The program started last year, using money from the economic stimulus package that Mr. Obama signed into law shortly after taking office.
The president says his initiative will lead states to raise their standards for student achievement and help students from ethnic minorities become successful. "We are going to raise the bar for all our students, and take bigger steps towards closing the achievement gap that denies so many students, especially black and Latino students, a fair shot at their dreams," he said.
As Mr. Obama discussed the goals for the program, he said he wants to encourage states and local school districts to raise their standards and compete for government funding.
"We will open up opportunity evenly and equitably across our education system. We will develop a culture of innovation and excellence in our public schools. And we will reward success and replicate it across the country," he said.
American students' performance on standardized tests lags behind that of their peers in other industrialized countries. The president says those scores must be improved to ensure the nation's economic future.