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September 8th, 2008
The 2008 Presidential Candidates: Where Do They Stand?
Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.” – Sen. John McCain, 9/5/08 Republican National Convention

Where Sen. John McCain Stands on the Issues:

School Choice: The issue of school choice has proven a cornerstone of McCain’s educational strategy. McCain says that he and his wife decided to send their children to parochial school, and now he wants to ensure that all parents can have the same freedom.

No Child Left Behind: McCain believes there should be an emphasis on standards and accountability, but that the goal of standardized testing should not be group averages. Instead, the focus should be to inspire every child to strive to reach his or her potential

Teachers: McCain believes the single biggest challenge in turning around a failing school is getting quality teachers into that school. To overcome this challenge, John McCain will:

Encourage Alternative Certification Methods That Open The Door For Highly Motivated Teachers To Enter The Field. McCain will devote five percent of Title II funding to states to recruit teachers who graduate in the top 25 percent of their class or who participate in an alternative teacher recruitment program such as Teach for America, the New York City Teaching Fellowship Program, the New Teacher Project, or excellent university initiatives.

Provide Bonuses For Teachers Who Locate In Underperforming Schools And Demonstrate Strong Leadership As Measured By Student Improvement. McCain will devote 60 percent of Title II funding for incentive bonuses for high performing teachers to locate in the most challenging educational settings, for teachers to teach subjects like math and science, and for teachers who demonstrate student improvement. Payments will be made directly to teachers. Funds should also be devoted to provide performance bonuses to teachers who raise student achievement and enhance the school-wide learning environment. Principals may also consider other issues in addition to test scores such as peer evaluations, student subgroup improvements, or being removed from the state’s “in need of improvement” list.

Provide Funding For Needed Professional Teacher Development. Where federal funds are involved, teacher development money should be used to enhance the ability of teachers to perform in today’s technology driven environment. We need to provide teachers with high quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students. The first 35 percent of Title II funding would be directed to the school level so principals and teachers could focus these resources on the specific needs of their schools.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: The Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 students from families with an average income of $23,000 a year. More than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. The budget for the Opportunity Scholarships is currently $13 million. John McCain believes that this extremely successful program should expand to at least $20 million benefiting nearly a thousand more families.

High Quality Tutoring Programs: Local school districts can certify education service providers but providers can also bypass the local bureaucracy and receive direct federal certification. Education service providers can then market directly to parents. Title I money will be directed straight to the provider.

Expanding Virtual Learning: By Reforming The “Enhancing Education Through Technology Program.” John McCain will target $500 million in current federal funds to build new virtual schools and support the development of online course offerings for students. These courses may be for regular coursework, for enhancement, or for dual enrollment into college.

John McCain Will Allocate $250 Million Through A Competitive Grant Program To Support States That Commit To Expanding Online Education Opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

John McCain Will Offer $250 Million For Digital Passport Scholarships To Help Students Pay For Online Tutors Or Enroll In Virtual Schools. Low-income students will be eligible to receive up to $4,000 to enroll in an online course, SAT/ACT prep course, credit recovery or tutoring services offered by a virtual provider. Providers could range from other public schools, virtual charter schools, home school parents utilizing virtual schooling resources or district or state sponsored virtual schools. The Department of Education would competitively award the funds to a national scholarship administrator who would manage the student applications, monitoring, and evaluation of providers.

Source: issues/19ce50b5-daa8-4795-b92d-92bd0d985bca.htm

“Just as with energy independence and health care, the urgency of upgrading public education for the 21st century has been talked to death in Washington, but not much has gotten done. And that failure to act has put our nation in jeopardy. I believe the day of reckoning is here. Our — our children and our country can’t afford four more years of neglect and indifference.

The decisions our leaders make about education in the coming years will shape our future for generations to come. They will help determine not only whether our children have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential or whether our workers have the chance to build a better life for their families, but whether we as a nation will remain in the 21st century the kind of global economic leader that we were in the 20th century.”Sen. Barack Obama, 9/8/08 in Dayton, Ohio

Where Sen. Barack Obama Stands on the Issues:

No Child Left Behind: Obama has repeatedly criticized the 2002 legislation, adopting the slogan: Left the Money Behind and Left the Students Behind. While Obama praises NCLB’s emphasis on accountability, he argues that the law was an unfunded mandate – inadequately implemented by the Education Department. Obama has pledged to reform the law – beginning with additional funding. He will also improve the assessments used to track student progress and improve NCLB’s accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

Zero to Five Plan: Obama’s “Zero to Five” plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents – placing key emphasis on early care and education for infants. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state “zero to five” efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school. In addition, Obama will expand early Head Start, increase Head Start funding, and improve quality for both. Finally, he pledges to provide affordable, high-quality child care for working families.

Math and Science Education: Obama plans to make math and science education a national priority. He pledges to recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. He will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

Address the Dropout Crisis: Obama will pass his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school – strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.

Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children.

Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Obama’s “STEP UP” plan addresses the achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations.

Support College Outreach Programs: Obama supports outreach programs like GEAR UP, TRIO and Upward Bound to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare for college.

Support English Language Learners: Obama supports transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.

Teachers: When it comes to teachers, Obama’s plan includes several initiatives. Among them:

Recruiting Teachers: Obama will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location.

Preparing Teachers: Obama will require all schools of education to be accredited. He will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.

Retaining Teachers: To support our teachers, Obama’s plan will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. He will also provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices.

Rewarding Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.

Higher Education: Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.

Financial Aid: Obama will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application.

Source: issues/education/
Interview with Obama Education Advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond

  • Daniel

    The government’s job is to fund schools, not inspire their students. Thanks, McSame.

  • Justine

    take the first part of McCain’s plan to be able to choose a school and then the rest of Obama’s plan to fund the schools, reward good teachers, and make college affordble and free and we got a plan!

  • Christopher

    Though I am no Obama fan, I agree that NCLB needs to focus more on supporting schools that are struggling rather than punishing them. Nonetheless, if schools are going to be accountable they must answer for their results.

  • Molly

    I work in a struggling school with children living in poverty. When politicians suggest the best idea for these children is for their parents to “pick their own school” it is obvious they have no clue about what is happening in these childrens’ lives. The learning problems and other difficulties these children face who live in poverty run much deeper than this simple and ignorant solution. By McCain saying that “he and his wife decided to send their children to parochial school, and now he wants to ensure that all parents can have the same freedom” just proves that he has no idea what is actually going on in the public schools today.

    Obama’s plan is more comprehensive and gives straight forward solutions that could actually make a difference in these childrens’ lives. His ideas are based in research and practice that have proven to be successful. McCain’s plan seems like it was cut and pasted from Bush’s failed education plans.

    I’m seriously worried about the future of children living in poverty. And here is what I don’t understand … if you invest in these children and their parents early, we don’t have to pay MORE later when these children end up in jail, in mental health facilties or on welfare.

  • Bryan

    “John McCain believes that this extremely successful program should expand to at least $20 million benefiting nearly a thousand more families.”
    What about the millions of other families who struggle to pay for college?

  • Robin Bennett

    Can anyone seriously read these comparisons and not conclude that one candidate has a deep understanding of the issues, and the other, an ideological one? Since Ronald Reagan, discussions of school reform has dumped on teacher inadequacy, without the “capitalistic” notion that you get what you pay for. According to this PBS program, the US is DEAD LAST in federal spending on schools! Why the resistance to change? How would the elite in America maintain superiority if their local money couldn’t BUY better schools? If the lower-class riff-raff could get the same education as the rich suburbanite, what would that mean for our society? Democracy? Equal opportunity?

    I teach in an urban school–although selective enrollment. This means that students travel from all over the city, many for over 90 minutes, to work extremely hard. THey are lucky and they know it, because they have friends, as smart as they are and who did comparably well in elementary school, but who had a complete turn around at their neighborhood school, mired in poverty, gangs, and hopelessness. I recommend a book called “So Much Reform, So Little Change” for a complex picture of the challenge. Obama has seen this close up–as a community organizer in Chicago. McCain understands education from the point of view of a parent who paid for parchocial (aka religion-based) education, and seems to understand little else. McSame, as one commentor mentioned. But he appeals to emotional responses that allow the listener to avoid thinking about the complexity of the issues.

    The greatest failures of our public schools is that we have not taught students to think critically about complex issues–which allows them to be swayed by tried and tested marketing appeals, personalities and their own feelings of inadequacy.

    VOTE for CHANGE!

  • Alexandra Pape

    I agree with both Molly and Bryan’s comments. I am a 22 year old college student, I work 2 jobs, and I have firsthand experience of poverty’s effect on not only the preparation process of education but also the difficulty of entering higher education. I prepared my butt off when I was a teenager- I participated in at least 10 clubs, competitions, and advocacy student groups, I maintained a high GPA and enrolled in college courses while in highschool, all so I could have a better chance of getting into college after graduation. This preparation was necessary coming from a family who’s yearly income rivaled most families’ expenditure on a moderately priced used vehicle. Food stamps, WIC help, TANF, Deseret Industries for clothes, the charity from local churches and what not was a signature for my childhood. No person was going to fund my college education. No parent was going to send money if my car broke down, I couldn’t afford groceries or food, or classes simply became too expensive. John McCain has clearly failed, from a student’s perspective, to understand the amazing struggle college can really be and the help we need to do it. In my opinion, when it comes to understanding what $5 is really worth to some in this country, McCain would be the last person to know what he is talking about. Walk in someone else’s shoes and don’t talk the talk until you’ve gained experience in the area you’re talking about. Only then would he have the understanding required to make rational decisions for funding in colleges in this country.

  • Brad

    Both candidates have their points, but they are both off the mark. We must reform education and we should seriously consider a modified version of the school voucher system.

    I’m sorry but the facts are that the US spends more money on education as a fraction of GDP than the UK,France,Italy, Australia and many others. Cuba spends the most money per GDP than any other country, but I don’t see strides there. The fact is, we are inefficient with the dollars we spend on education. McCain has quality issues that can’t get it done and Obama has good intentions, but you can not put all the control in the hands of the government like he wants to do. Obama’s costs are astounding and unrealistic and it’s bad change!

    The real issue is that we subsidize the producer and not the consumer and no one knows how to spend their own dollars better than you do. Write your congressman and let’s get movin’.

  • Michelle Ervin

    Shame on all of you and PBS KIDS. Why do Big Bird and Caillou need to become political pawns in the adult battle? Can’t children live as innocent children? The big people networks & programs are not enough to satisfy the gluttons for political sparring? This is MY tax dollars at “work”!? NOT BY MY CHOICE! SHUT THIS LINK DOWN!

  • Roberta

    I think that senater McCain is right on this issue alonng with most others miss michelle i think your comment is bogus because i think that everyone including the young need to know what is happening and i can assure you that my children certanly will and i think this is a great link that does not deserve to be shut down

  • Karla Rainville

    Why does Obama want to focus on educating infants???? He wants to much control in how we raise our children, that is if they’re not terminated before(or even after) birth.
    As a homeschooling mom of 4 children, I believe we should have total say of how and when our chidren our educated.
    Change in this country will be determined by the condition of our hearts. Its time we take responsiblity for ourselves and our families and quit putting everything in the governments hands.

  • Rhonda

    Karla, I think if you read his plan the zero to five plan is VOLUNTARY. Some people from wealthier backgrounds do not have the experiance to understand that many working class people in this nation do not have access to QUALITY childcare and early education for their children. The wealthy in this country do not understand how difficult it can be for working parents with little opportunities to be a larger part of their children’s education. Many employers do not allow their employees to take much time off so many working class parents are under tremendous pressure. It is nice that you have the freedom and educational background to homeschool your children but it wouldbe helpful to understand that not everyone has that, and their children, too are deserving of an effective education.

  • Brenda

    Early education is very important! It is the foundation of our life. In the ideal world every parent should educate their children well, but in this world we sometimes need good early childhood programs to help children gain love for learning.

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