Monday, August 11, 2008

Obama and McCain on Education. Part 1

Talking about voting..I thought I'd dedicate a couple of posts to the candidates.

Unfortunately, a tanking economy and the Iraq war get headlines over another important issue: Education. When it does get talked about, everyone agrees that when students in the world's hyper power rank 28th in Math ..something is wrong. So how do the candidates intend to fix it?

I searched the candidates names and the word "education" on youtube to do a video comparison and went directly to each candidate's website to get their own information on the issue.

(Disclosure: I'm a Democrat and Obama supporter so you can guess where this is likely to go)

McCain's website: "If a school will not change, the students should be able to change schools."

When it comes to education, McCain believes in the
free market and small government. He proposes a mix of incentives for new and existing teachers, choice for parents (in particular school vouchers) and more local control of federal funds. He also proposes some initiatives in online education like virtual schools and online academic centers. He highlights one program in Washington DC that he will expand in Washington DC which I thought was a bit weird.. unless you live there I guess.

Obama's website:
Policy changes and more government programs in areas of need. He supports early childhood education with federal programs like HeadStart and creates another program for children 0-5 years old and mentions a daycare program. He specifically addresses problem areas such as Math/Science, Dropout rates, and supports Summer and after school programs with a mix of policy changes, funding promises and strategies. Like McCain he puts emphasis on recruiting and rewarding teachers. In addition he will create a tax credit to finance college and streamline the federal financial aid process.

My impressions:
If you have a specific issue within education, it's very difficult to figure out from John McCain's website, what he is going to do. His information is at a very high level and does not back up any of his statements with any statistics or evidence. His strategy is to appeal to people's common sense. He does not specifically address many of the urgent needs of our educational system. The solution to problems are to give parents the option to send their kid to a different school. The only strength is that on the relatively few initiatives he proposes (on page 2), he clearly states where the funding is going to come from..Title II or Title I.

Obama policies and initiatives are clear. Every problem highlighted is backed up with statistics as to why it is a problem and research-based solutions. Literature I have read about improving student achievement puts a heavy emphasis on early childhood education. Obama's 0-5 plan and Head Start put this research to use. His initiatives address the main problems our country faces in education today: achievement gaps in Math/Science, high dropout rates and accessibility to higher education. He goes further to address specific areas like summer learning and even touches upon flash points like English Language Learners. My impression is that Obama has a deep understanding of what the problems are, and a clear view of what it will take to address them. It is obvious Obama will spend more on education. I felt convinced that he will spend intelligently. What I did not walk away with is where the funding will come from.

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