Friday, September 5, 2008

Obama and McCain on education--empty promises and vouchers?

I didn't listen to a lot of either convention, but I made a point to sit down for the speeches of the two candidates. Education was a minor point in both speeches, but McCain elaborated his vision slightly more.

Obama's promises for "an army of new teachers" with higher pay and more support are nice, but I don't know that he has or should have the power to fulfill them. I don't want the federal government mandating teacher pay, even if it's a higher salary. He'll invest in early childhood education and said he'd help families afford college.

McCain pulled out the voucher plan he's brought to more of a forward position over the last couple of months. I knew he was a voucher supporter from the first, but used to think it was a backburner issue because the president's role would be focusing on other issues. Apparently, McCain is serious about pushing some sort of national voucher plan. That is a big, big deal to me. His rhetoric about the failed school bureaucracies is generally just that, empty rhetoric. He did it as a generalization last night, and told the NAACP in July that the bureaucracies are to blame for the failing schools in poor black areas. In a way, that one Republican talking point repudiates the rest of their philosophy about personal and family responsibility rather than relying on others to save you. Blaming the schools is the cheap way out--those poor public schools are unsafe because of the principals and teachers rather than thug kids bringing guns? They talk the tough talk about crime, but then are too PC to say it's the culture and failed families in certain areas that are the principal causes of social ills, including failing schools? A private school will somehow change all of that rather than just kick out the problem kids? It's dumb.

I can agree with McCain about getting rid of bad teachers (which probably also requires better pay across the board to attract more teachers to fill in those gaps) and paying teachers more who work in those tough, dangerous areas. I agree they should make more than me securely and happily teaching in suburban Alpine District. And both candidates support merit pay to a limited degree which I have a lot of mixed feelings about and still haven't gotten around to posting about.

Here are the relevant bits of education talk from each candidate and links to articles from KSL and CNN about McCain's July speech to the NAACP on education. Both include some of Obama's positions and rebuttals at the end.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

We will prepare them for the jobs of today. We will use our community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities. For workers in industries that have been hard hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one while they receive retraining that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage.

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.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.


Anonymous said...

On an annualized basis, Americans have been increasing per student spending by about two percentage points above inflation for the past 30 years. That's a lot of money. Maybe it's not for you.

Your side keeps saying "more money", but how much more is it going to take? Or do we just keep blaming the Mexicans and single mothers for sending difficult-to-educate children to our schools?

Cameron said...

Anon, there's a shortage of teachers and schools. Fixing those things requires more money.

UtahTeacher said...

Hi Anon,

I know for sure some of the past comments you have made with your insistence that we're spending so much, but I'm not sure on some others. I think you should use a name just for clarity's sake. I don't think you even have to register a Google account. Just click on the Name/URL choice, type in name, no URL required, and we'll now it's you.

And as I've said before, I don't buy those claims at all. Salary...possibly I make more compared to inflation than a similar teacher in the 80's, but I don't think the disparity is huge. Everything else--I'm not buying that public ed. funds for physical buildings, class sizes, supplies, etc. have increased faster than general inflation and especially private school and higher education costs.

And really, the point of the post was to say I'm not overly impressed with our candidates' takes on education and wish they'd mostly leave it to states.

UtahTeacher said...

Don't tell me. I know I typed now for know?