Obama vs. McCain on Education (plus a story about getting caught in a storm)

My good friend Jon and I were sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park during his recent visit.  Talking politics.  A shirtless guy was throwing a tennis ball against the base of a statue, over and over again (he was really into it), and some peculiar lights were scanning a cloud overhead (we still can't figure out what is was...UFOs?).

At some point in the discussion, Jon posed a question: "I understand how some people disagree about certain issues, but how can anyone not support better education?" People might not see eye to eye on stem-cell research or military spending or gay rights (due to differing religious convictions, world-views, etc.), but how can anyone not agree that education should be a (the?) chief priority of any society—and therefore any government?

Jon's question reminded me of an article my mom cut out of her NEA (National Education Association) newsletter for me a while back. It compares the presidential candidates' stances on a number of issues related to education. It's interesting to see such clear-cut distinctions on such paramount policy issues ...

Barack Obama

John McCain

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)


"The fact is, No Child Left Behind has done more to stigmatize and demoralize our students and teachers in struggling schools than it has to marshal the talent and the determination and the resources to turn them around. That's what's wrong with NCLB, and that's what we must change in a fundamental way."

—Manchester, NH, 11/22/07


"There's a lot of things that need to be fixed about No Child Left Behind, but just to say what was a bipartisan agreement, as we all know, and was the first real attempt at trying to gauge and reward performance, including teachers, as well as students in America, I think would be a mistake. But should we sit down and fix it? Yes. And we should do it in a bipartisan fashion and recognize that the first—the first challenge that I think this nation has is to provide a qualified workforce."

—Political Transcript Wire, 2/22/08

Pay Teachers Based on Student Test Scores and Other Factors
Opposes Individual Pay for Test Scores, but Supports School-Wide Enhanced Compensation

"I'm not in favor of merit pay as it is currently understood, which basically... involves taking test scores and then rewarding people on how they score on tests, how students score on tests."

—MSNBC transcript, "Hardball," 4/2/08

Supports Pay for Test Scores

"We should reward the best of them with merit pay, and encourage teachers who have lost their focus on the children they teach to find another line of work."

—Alexandria, VA, 4/1/08

Reduce Class Size

—NEA's 2008 Presidential Candidate Survey


Voted against a federal program aimed at reducing class size.

—Roll Call Vote 103, 5/15/01

Pay Teachers a Starting Salary of $40k and ESPs a Living Wage

—NEA's 2008 Presidential Candidate Survery

No Public Information Available

—Did not return NEA questionnaire

Increase Minimum Wage

Obama supported clean vote on minimum wage increase; voted against amendment that would permit employers to opt out of federal minimum wage; and voted for final passage of minimum wage bill.

—Senate Roll Call Vote 23, 1/24/07; Senate Roll Call Cote 24, 1/24/07; Senate Roll Call Vote 42, 2/1/07


McCain opposed clean vote on minimum wage increase; voted for amendment that would permit employers to opt out of federal minimum wage; and voted for final passage of minimum wage bill once tax breaks for businesses were attached.

—Senate Roll Call Vote 23, 1/24/07; Senate Roll Call Vote 24, 1/24/07; Senate Roll Call Vote 42, 2/1/07

Expand Healthcare, Create Universal Health Insurance

"[B]y the end of my first term ... we're going to have universal health care for every single American."

—Presidential Forum, 3/24/07

Supports Expanding Health Care; Opposes Universal Insurance

"I believe that every American should have affordable and available health care ... But I'm not going to mandate that they do."

—CNN, 2/16/08

Privatize Social Security

"Part of the reason I'm so opposed to the president's privatization plan is it would cost trillions of dollars in transition costs—basically the money that would be going to current seniors would be siphones off into these private accounts, and you've got to figure out how to pay those seniors back."

—Obama's Senate website

Partially Supports

McCain "supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts—but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept."

—McCain Tax Cut Plan

Increase Federal Education Funding

Supported major amendments and appropriations bills that would increase funding for education programs.

—Democratic Presidential Debate, 9/9/07

Opposed Bills to Increase Funding, but States Support for Adequate Funding

Opposed major amendments and appropriations bills that would increase funding for education programs.

—Roll Call Vote 46, 2/13/07; Roll Call Vote 58, 3/16/06

Expand Early Childhood Education

"Children's ability to succeed in school relies on the foundation they build in their first three years. Prekindergarten for four-year-olds is important, but it is not enough to ensure children will arrive at school ready to learn," instead advocating a Zero to Five plan.

—Obama Education Plan

No Public Information Available.

—Missed 2007 Senate vote to renew Head Start; Did not return NEA questionnaire

[all info reprinted from NEA newsletter]

The temperature dropped suddenly and thunder roared somewhere west of the Hudson. The shirtless guy said, "Storm's a-brewin'." "Nah," I said, "I think it's gonna pass us by." "I'll quote you on that." A few moments later, Jon and I were completely drenched.  

What the hell were those lights?!


Anonymous said…
Indeed we should all be paying close attention to the candidates stand on improving education. American education is at a low point due to NCLB which seems to focus on high stakes testing causing school districts to teach to the test at the expense of helping students learn to love learning as a lifelong venture. How sad. I like that Hillary seemed to have the best handle on how to best approach improving education. She advocated for the dismantling of NCLB and as far as I know is the only cadidate to be that clear about her stand. I wish Obama would adopt her view because NCLB is flawed so terribly that even funding it more or changing aspects of it will just allow education to erode further.

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