Obama highlights child care, affordable education in GOP strongh - KCTV5

Obama highlights child care, affordable education in GOP strongholds of Kansas

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President Barack Obama visits with 3-5 year-olds at the Community Children's Center in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, before speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. Akira Cooper is at right. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) President Barack Obama visits with 3-5 year-olds at the Community Children's Center in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, before speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. Akira Cooper is at right. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -

Wrapping up a two-day sales trip to conservative states to sell his State of the Union proposals, President Barack Obama pitched expanded child care Thursday to help families make ends meet, while calling for less of the political division that has rendered Washington virtually dysfunctional.

At a campaign-style rally at the University of Kansas, a liberal redoubt deep in Republican territory, Obama was introduced by a college student and working mother who said she once spent an entire paycheck on child care for her three children.

Obama preached to the people crafting a message to which few in the crowd objected, but it's a reality of Obama's wishes that voters are more hesitant to believe in.

Obama said that quality child-care programs "aren't just nice to have. It's a must have" with two working parents in so many U.S. households.

He has proposed expanding access to child care to more than 1 million children by tripling the maximum child-care tax credit for middle-class families with young children to $3,000 per child and spending $80 billion over the next decade to help states provide subsidies to eligible families with preschool-age children.

"I don't want anybody being day-care poor," Obama said. He recalled when he and his wife, Michelle, found paying for child care difficult "and we had good jobs."

Obama wants to pay for expanded child care and other proposals, including making community college free for most students, by eliminating tax provisions that benefit the wealthiest individuals and imposing a fee on large financial institutions. But the idea has received a cool reception in the Republican-run Congress.

Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans are fully behind increasing access to quality affordable education. "But we don't need more top-down policies from Washington or new tax hikes on middle-income families saving for their children's college education," he said.

Obama said it's fine for Republicans to disagree with his ideas. But he said they shouldn't stop there. "Show me your ideas. Explain to me how you want to help families pay for college and for child care."

Obama was on the second day of a two-day trip to conservative states where he argued for the initiatives he outlined in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

He acknowledged losing Kansas in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but cheerfully added that he probably won some sectors of the university town of Lawrence.

Fern Coffin, 100, arrived early at Anschutz Sports Pavilion for special seating. 

“I can't remember anything that's comparable,” she said. 

Coffin, a registered Republican, said Thursday's talking points on affordable education and childcare hit home for her. The mother and grandmother was the first in her family to go to college. 

“I'm very concerned that everybody gets university education and more,” she said. 

For others, it was Obama's “middle class economy” theme that resonated the most. 

“I can relate to almost any part. I mean, I'm married and I'm going to have kids pretty soon. Everything he talked about is going to benefit everybody to some extent,” said Sudeshna Roy, a researcher at the University of Kansas. 

Obama used a Lawrence man's story as an example of how a “middle class economy” should work. Steve Ozarks wrote a letter to the president in 2013. His story was told to the masses on Thursday. 

Ozarks' letter reflected on a time, 25 years ago, when he and his wife Julia became unexpected parents and needed help to get through college. Without Pell Grants and low-interest loans to get through school, Ozarks said his life would have ended up much differently. 

“I just said if it (grants and loans) wasn't there, we would be in a completely different situation,” he said. 

Today he is a small business owner booking bands around the world. 

Ozarks' letter got the president's attention. 

“Once he started talking about what was on my heart, it wasn't about my moment. It was about, this is a really good message, I'm glad this is coming through,” Ozarks said. 

His message about access to affordable education fit right into the president's middle class economy speech, pushing affordable and accessible education and childcare for all. 

“I'd like to think our political system can still have the oomph and the conscience to do that,” Ozarks said. 

Ozarks did get to meet with Obama before his speech. As with every person who lands a meet and greet with the commander in chief, Ozarks' cell phone was taken away, so he only has his memories of the meeting. 

Putting Obama's plan to work is where most people, like Coffin's daughter, pulled back. 

“I think it's somehow trying to get Congress, whether it's this president or future presidents, to work together for the greater good,” Katherine Fordyce said. 

Obama's first stop was Idaho, another conservative state that overwhelmingly went for his Republican opponent in both of those campaigns.

Before addressing about 7,000 people at the University of Kansas sports pavilion, Obama dropped in on a local Head Start class that the White House said is one of the oldest in the country. The White House often arranges such local stops to help the president highlight a particular policy or proposal.

He knelt at a table of preschool-aged children who were reading Dr. Seuss' "The Sneetches" and said the story about discrimination was one of his favorites. He also said most of the issues he deals with as president would be solved if everybody read about the Sneetches.

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