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Obama Signs Spending Bill to Protect Teachers’ Jobs

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

President Obama signed legislation Tuesday to provide twenty-six billion dollars to the states for education and healthcare.

The measure includes ten billion dollars for education and sixteen billion for Medicaid, the joint state-federal government medical program for the poor.

The legislation will help one hundred sixty thousand teachers and one hundred fifty thousand police and public service workers keep their jobs.

The House of Representatives approved the bill Tuesday. House members had already begun a six-week holiday when the Senate approved the measure last week.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took the rare step of calling House lawmakers back to Washington to vote on the bill and send it to President Obama without delay.

President Obama has stressed the importance of education for all Americans. He said this is necessary for the country to compete among some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The president spoke Monday at the University of Texas. He talked about the decrease in college graduation rates in the United States.

BARACK OBAMA: “In a single generation, we’ve fallen from first place to twelfth place in college graduation rates for young adults. That is unacceptable, but it is not irreversible. We can retake the lead.”

President Obama said educational success and economic well-being are linked, especially in a world economy driven by information and technology. His goal is to increase the percentage of college graduates from forty percent to sixty percent by the year twenty-twenty.

The president said the federal government has already reformed the student loan system and increased tax credits for families struggling to pay college education costs.

Democrats in Congress say spending for the new bill will not add to the federal budget deficit.

But some Republican lawmakers criticized the measure. House Republican leader John Boehner dismissed the emergency jobs measure as more wasteful spending aimed at pleasing the Democrats’ traditional union allies.

JOHN BOEHNER: “The American people are screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘Stop!’ And Washington continues to spend, spend, spend.”

Hours before the vote Tuesday, President Obama told reporters at the White House that education and the safety of communities should not be a political party issue.

BARACK OBAMA: “Those interests are widely shared throughout this country. A challenge that affects parents, children and citizens in almost every community in America should not be a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It is an American problem.”

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Lawan Davis. You can read and download scripts at I'm Steve Ember.