Where Do the Candidates Stand on Education Reform?


            Education was once the foundation of American society.  To advance in life, one saw receiving a quality education as the ticket to the middle-class and a comfortable life.  However, over time Americans began placing less emphasis on education.  The public school system began to suffer and the achievement gap between American children and their foreign counterparts widened.

            Both Barack Obama and John McCain emphasize education reform in their platform, but whose plan benefits you and your children the most?

            McCain believes the key to education reform is the ability of parents to choose which schools their children attend, similar to his colleagues in Congress who are able to send their children to the best private schools in their area.  The Republican nominee equates equal education to equal access to the best education.  According to his website, “John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.”

            The Arizona senator wants to encourage competition among schools to be the most innovative and flexible, and compete for the best teachers and administrators.

            Furthermore, McCain believes that financial assistance must be based on a parent’s desire to relocate their child to the best school available.

            However, Obama sees teacher retention and affordable higher learning as the key to education reform.  According to his website, thirty percent of schoolteachers leave the field of education within their first five years.  In addition, the cost of a college education has grown by forty percent in the last five years.

            Obama and running mate Joe Biden’s plan for education reform includes the Zero to Five Plan, reforming No Child Left Behind and supporting college credit initiatives.

            The Zero to Five Plan will not only place emphasis on early childhood education but also early care and education for infants, which they see as paramount in preparing a child for kindergarten.  The senator from Illinois will quadruple Head Start, increasing its funding and improving its quality.  In addition, he wants to make high-quality child care affordable for working-class families.

            Obama believes the problem with the much-maligned No Child Left Behind program was a lack of funds for the law.  He will fund the law, but not force teachers to spend an entire year preparing for a standardized test, but instead will find other tools to assess a student’s achievement and readiness for higher education.  He plans to support the formation of more high-performing charter schools by doubling the funding of the Federal Charter School Program, while closing low-performing existing charter schools. 

            The Democratic nominee wants to make math and science a national priority by recruiting college graduates with math and science degrees and supporting efforts to team teachers with professionals in the fields of math and science.  In an effort to retain teachers, he would allow a mentoring program that would team young teachers with experienced teachers.

            Another key to Obama’s education reform plan is his “Make College a Reality” initiative, which will increase advance placement courses in high school and implement a new American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will ensure that the first $4,000 of college tuition is completely free for most Americans.  According to his website, “Recipients of the credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of community service.”

            Consequently, whether it is McCain or Obama in the White House in January 2009, both candidates are determined to make education the foundation of American advancement once again.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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