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The Local Takeaway From Last Night’s State of the Union

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Senator Michael Bennet smiled widely as he stood to applaud President Barack Obama during last night’s State of the Union address. Bennet, a Democrat and former chief of Denver Public Schools, was clearly happy the president singled out Bruce Randolph School for praise, saying that three years ago it was one of the state’s worst schools, but it has since turned around. “Last May,” Obama said, “97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college.”

But although the school is on a better course, Education News Colorado points out, it still struggles. For instance, just 19 percent of the school’s middle-schoolers and 13 percent of high-schoolers scored proficient or better in math on the 2010 CSAP. Andy Rotherham of the New York Times’ Eduwonk blog also comments on the topic: “The president singled-out a Denver school that was turned around only after its teachers took on their own union to get out from under the standard collective bargaining agreement. Needless to say, that’s a strategy the two national teachers’ unions don’t want to see replicated around the country.”

Overall, Obama’s focus last night was on the rapidly changing economy. While providing a plan for spending in education, high-speed rail, and clean-energy technology, he also proposed budget cuts, including a five-year freeze on some programs held dear (also via the Times). Reactions from Colorado lawmakers to Obama’s third State of the Union have been predictably mixed and partisan.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall, the Democrat who persuaded many Democrats and Republicans to sit together for the first time during an SOTU address, says Obama “hit the right notes” on the economy and political atmosphere in Washington, writes the Pueblo Chieftain, while Representative Scott Tipton, the Republican who ousted Democrat John Salazar in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, was glad to hear the president wants to reduce the federal deficit by $400 billion in the coming decade but says Obama didn’t propose enough to make a decent dent.

If you were scanning the SOTU assembly for U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, you wouldn’t have spotted him. He was tapped to be the Obama administration’s “designated survivor,” reports the Washinton Post’s Federal Eye: “With most of the federal government’s senior leadership slated to sit in one room together during the State of the Union address, presidents routinely select at least one Cabinet secretary to skip the big speech to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the event of a catastrophic event.”

The president’s address came as Colorado’s most recent unemployment numbers hit their highest level in nearly three decades—8.8 percent, notes the Denver Business Journal.

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