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Education Stance…Education Dance

First and foremost I’m a taxpayer, so how my tax dollar is used to provide our nation’s children the best possible public education is important to me. Next, I’m a parent. I want the best education I can get for my child. Finally, I’m an educator. Decisions made at the Federal and State level effects my job and my students.

While there are many issues being discussed between the presidential candidates, education is one the more important issues for me. The thing that gets me hot under the collar the most is the dance that is played out during each and every election cycle be it a presidential election, an election involving lawmakers, or my local school board.

It seems like they will promise you the Moon for your vote, doesn’t it?

I thought I’d take a few minutes to investigate what Barack Obama and John McCain are saying about the issue of education.

What are they promising us?

From an ESchool News article published this weekJeanne Century, director of science research at the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, said Illinois Sen. Obama would push for school systems to bring broadband internet access into all K-12 schools. Obama would oppose any system that tied “teacher bonuses to student scores,” Century said, but would back programs that rewarded educators for becoming highly qualified educators.

Century [also] said Obama would support more class time for social studies, art, physical education, and science—four areas that have been greatly reduced or eliminated at K-12 schools since NCLB was enacted in 2002. The law requires every school in the country to be 100-percent proficient in math and reading by the 2013-14 academic year—a goal some educators say is unlikely, if not impossible. 

Over at you can find information stating Obama believes that we must equip poor and struggling districts, both rural and urban, with the support and resources they need to provide disadvantaged students with an opportunity to reach their full potential. Too often, our leaders present this issue as an either – or debate, divided between giving our schools more funding, or demanding more accountability. Obama believes that we have to do both, and has offered innovative ideas to break through the political stalemate in Washington. 

Obama’s plan for education provides critical support for young children and their parents in a plan titled “Zero to Five”. The plan will be promoted by Early Learning Challenge Grants to help all states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school. Early Head Start would quadruple under an Obama administration, and he promises affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families.

Obama’s biggest problem with No Child Left Behind was the funding mess it caused, and he promises reforms that will fully fund the requirements of the law. He’s against the current “teach the test” culture found in many school systems, and promises to improve the assessments. NCLB’s accountability system would also be reformed under an Obama administration so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

Obama calls for more qualified teachers who are proficient in math and science. He wants to provide funding for school districts to come up with intervention strategies to address the drop-out crisis, fund more afterschool programs, and summer learning opportunities. Let’s not forget College Outreach Programs, more support for English Language Learners, the creation of Teacher Service Scholarships and all schools of education must be accredited. The website also mentions Teacher Residency Programs, teacher mentoring programs, and incentives to provide more common planning time for teachers. He wants new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them.

Over at the NEA’s blog, EdNotes, Cynthia Kopkowski confirms what is said in the EschoolNews article regarding teacher pay. Kopkowski advises when asked about merit pay, Century said Obama is “against traditional merit pay that ties individual teacher pay to student outcome.” He wants to collaborate with teacher organizations and school districts to come up with alternatives, such as paying teachers for being leaders or mentors, or attaining additional education that displays deeper knowledge of their subject area. 

There’s much, much more outlined over at Obama’s site. So much more it boggles the mind, and make me wonder… could we possibly pay for all of it?

November USA Today article advises Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama [has] laid out a plan to spend $18 billion on early childhood education, dropout prevention and teacher incentives. His plan also touches on a hot-button pay issue on which he differs with education unions.To pay for his education program, Obama would eliminate tax-deductibility of CEO pay by corporations and delay NASA’s program to return to the moon and then journey to Mars.”We’re not going to have the engineers and the scientists to continue space exploration if we don’t have kids who are able to read, write and compute,” Obama said. 

The same article I referred to above also mentions John McCain’s views on education. Lisa Graham Keegan, a former lawmaker and superintendent of public instruction in Sen. McCain’s home state of Arizona, said that while school leaders struggle with shrinking operating budgets and teacher shortages, technology could supplement educators’ daily lessons. She added that qualified teachers could never be replaced by advanced classroom technology. We could potentially have a perfect storm of success here,” said Graham Keegan, who has worked with McCain since his 2000 presidential bid. “You can enhance what a teacher does with technology.” Has not yet released his stance on classroom technology Century said school officials should encourage students at all grade levels to use the web to research and supplement reading assignments and daily homework “These are skills about problem solving,” she said. 

Regarding pay for educators McCain supports a pay-for-performance inventive model per Graham Keegan, but feels paying teachers extra according to data from test results would be the only reliable method to reward educators who stood out among their peers. Graham Keegan continues by stating McCain’s education stances would “violate existing policies and will offend certain groups,” adding that he was skeptical of teacher unions’ “one-size-fits-all” contracts that provided little flexibility for school districts. 

Over at the NEA’s blog, EdNotes, Cynthia Kopkowski states Keegan Graham advised McCain favors an “innovative compensation system” that rewards teachers “for classroom excellence.” But she would not specify if that meant student test scores. Stakeholders would have to define what classroom excellence meant, she said. 

From, McCain states that Public education should be defined as one in which our public support for a child’s education follows that child into the school the parent chooses. The school is charged with the responsibility of educating the child, and must have the resources and management authority to deliver on that responsibility. They must also report to the parents and the public on their progress. The deplorable status of preparation for our children, particularly in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world, does not allow us the luxury of eliminating options in our educational repertoire. John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.

With regards to standards, McCain believes that we can longer accept low standards for some students and high standards for others. John McCain believes our schools can and should compete to be the most innovative, flexible and student-centered – not safe havens for the uninspired and unaccountable. He believes we should let them compete for the most effective, character-building teachers, hire them, and reward them.If a school will not change, the students should be able to change schools. John McCain believes parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children. He finds it beyond hypocritical that many of those who would refuse to allow public school parents to choose their child’s school would never agree to force their own children into a school that did not work or was unsafe. They can make another choice. John McCain believes that is a fundamental and essential right we should honor for all parents.

John McCain will place parents and children at the center of the education process, empowering parents by greatly expanding the ability of parents to choose among schools for their children. He believes all federal financial support must be predicated on providing parents the ability to move their children, and the dollars associated with them, from failing schools. Plainly stated…McCain supports vouchers.

At John McCain states he is not in favor of nationally imposed standards or federal funding strings. Rather than have Federal mandates McCain would rather see state and local education authorities in charge of developing and enforcing high academic standards. By linking Federal education dollars to testing McCain argues we are in fact penalizing students and causing states to spend more money on federally imposed bureaucratic requirements – money that would be better spent in the classroom. McCain would like to see education funding money sent directly to the classroom rather than having it siphoned off by the Feds and state agencies.

No matter the outcome of the election each candidate will receive some of their “wants” for education, but not all of them. No matter the outcome of the election changes are in the wind…changes that will necessitate planning, rolling out, buying in, and don’t forget the complaining and naysayers. No matter the outcome of the election classroom educators and students will be caught in the middle.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again……as long as education remains a political football, we tax payers, we parents, we educators will continue to be victims of the “stance dance,” and quite frankly my toes have already been stepped on enough. 

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