Mar 16, 2:48 PM EDT

Obama says he's prepared to fight GOP over education


AP Photo
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Multimedia
Interactive: Becoming a Teacher in Mid-career
Survey of College Fundraising (PDF)
AP Poll: Public Education
Report on Loan Options for Community College Students (April 17, 2008)
An Alternative to Special Education
Latest News
Kentucky judges ponder case of school bullying suicide

Police: 2 charged in shooting at Frederick high school

School bus rams through front of suburban Philadelphia home

Jury to resume deliberations in Atlanta test cheating trial

Computer attack delays school assessment testing in Colorado

Buy AP Photo Reprints
Latest News
Obama talks drug war with 'The Wire' creator David Simon

NC State's Barber says all is OK with Obama after profanity

Obama praises payday lender rules, vows veto of limitations

Obamas to host Pope Francis at White House Sept. 23

Obama highlights benefits of trade on small businesses

Interactive
Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address
Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address
Panorama of the State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pointing to increased high school graduation rates, President Barack Obama said Monday he's prepared to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities rather than risk going backward.

The president said he hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts. He's also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

Obama said if the Republican budget doesn't reflect those priorities, they will have "a major debate."

"We are making too much progress now in terms of graduation rates, improved reading scores, improved math scores, increasing standards, increasing access to the resources the kids need, for us to be going backwards now. And this is something worth fighting for," Obama said at a White House meeting with urban school leaders.

The Education Department said Monday that high school graduation rates for all racial groups have increased, according to data from the 2012-2013 school year. But black, Hispanic, and American Indian students still significantly lag behind their white and Asian/Pacific Islander counterparts.

Previously, the department said the graduation rate had reached a high of 81.4 percent. That means 1 in 5 students overall leaves high school without a diploma.

Among black students, the rate reported was 70.7 percent - up from 69 percent a year earlier.

Hispanic students had a rate of 75.2 percent, which was up from 73 percent a year earlier.

American Indian students had a rate of 69.7 percent - up from 67 percent.

Asian/Pacific Islander students had a rate of 88.7 percent, which was up from 88 percent.

White students had a rate of 86.6 percent, which was up from 86 percent.

The No Child Left Behind law, signed in 2002, has been credited with shining a light on the performance of poor, minority, disabled and non-English speaking students, but also has led to complaints from both Republicans and Democrats that the requirements were unworkable.

Lawmakers are working on a bipartisan effort to update the No Child Left Behind Act. Congress for years has been stymied on the best way to renew the much maligned law, and last month House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on a GOP reform bill after conservative opposition made passage uncertain.

Lawmakers have grappled with such issues as whether federal law should continue to require annual reading and math testing in grades three to eight and again in high school. Much of the conflict focuses on how much of a federal role there should be in identifying and fixing failing schools.

---

AP Education Writer Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.

Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.