President Obama traveled to Austin Thursday, kicking off the first in a series of trips highlighting his plan to help spur long-term job growth and innovation and not-so-subtly pressure Congress to pass his economic agenda.
In a speech to students at Manor New Tech High School, Obama acknowledged that economic growth has been insufficient in part because some of his proposals have been blocked for "political reasons," but reiterated his optimism and commitment to "keep on talking to members of Congress" to get meaningful legislation through.
But while he works towards bipartisan agreement, the president announced two new actions he's taking to get the economy moving again, designed to help spur innovation and growth.
The first is a $200 million commitment to launch competitions to build partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government designed to develop the manufacturing technologies that can help American manufacturers create new jobs. He called on Congress to invest another billion to expand the program in the future. A second action will make government data more freely available so that it can be used by companies looking to grow.
The president's trip to Manor New Tech High School was designed to highlight the school's unique hands-on training program that helps prepare students for cutting-edge technology jobs.
"We've got to reward schools like this one that focus on the fields of the future, use tech to help students learn, and are also partnering with other businesses and colleges so that a diploma here leads directly to a good job," he said, while reiterating that his comprehensive education plan for job growth also involves expanded pre-school access and helping to make college more affordable.
The president suggested colleges and universities that don't make enough effort to "keep costs down" shouldn't receive as much taxpayer money. He described plans to create a "college scorecard," that could give students and parents information about which schools best fit their needs and have the best value, which he called "a consumer report for colleges, Because you don't want a lemon, and you don't want too much debt."
The renewed focus on jobs and education brings the president's priorities in line with many more Americans. Although immigration and gun reform have dominated the recent legislative agenda in Washington, a Gallup poll released Wednesday found the vast majority of Americans say job creation is their number one priority, with 86% naming "helping the economy grow" and "creating more jobs" as a high priority issue they want to see the president and Congress work on. Education was the top priority for a full 81% of Americans. In contrast, only 55% named reducing gun violence as a top priority, with 50% naming immigration reform.
The trip to Texas is just the first stop on Obama's “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tours,” which will continue over the next few weeks as the president travels to cities and towns across America that the White House plans to highlight as economic success stories.