By Alister Bull
BOSTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday that education should be shielded from his budget-cutting battle with congressional Republicans if the United States is to compete in a global economy.
"We need to come up with a budget that forces government to live within its means," he told students at the TechBoston Academy, a pilot school in Massachusetts focused on the use of technology in education.
"But ... even as we find ways to cut spending, we cannot cut back on job-creating investments like education," he said.
Obama's Democrats are fighting off deep spending cuts proposed by Republicans, who argue a projected $1.65 trillion budget deficit this year demands decisive action.
Democrats, who lead the Senate, say that steep cuts could sap the economic recovery and have suggested reductions of $6 billion -- dramatically less than the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House of Representatives.
"We cannot cut back on the very investments that will help our economy grow and our nation compete and make sure that these young people succeed," Obama said.
"There's nothing responsible about that."
Republicans have chided Obama as not being serious about controlling federal spending.
The White House has opened negotiations with congressional leaders to find common ground over spending, with an initial meeting led last week by Vice President Joe Biden.
A bipartisan group of senators have also begun discussions over how to raise revenues and cut spending to tackle the fiscal challenge.
Obama's 2012 budget proposal to Congress called for $90 million to fund a new grant competition to foster research in the use of technology to boost performance in education, as well as a $300 million competition designed to spur innovation.
Obama was joined at TechBoston Academy by Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has contributed to the school. The White House said Obama was eager to encourage more collaboration between government, private business and philanthropy to aid performance in public education.
(additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)