A Quick Look at the Presidential Candidates' Education Platforms

Election season is in full swing, with party conventions around the corner and nightly news analysis of the candidates’ talking points. While being an informed voter is easier than before with instant access to information through the Internet, often the candidates’ proposals can be hidden behind political jargon. This month we’ll take a closer look at the education plans of John McCain and Barack Obama, a topic that has not yet received a large amount of press.

John McCain’s Education Plan
While McCain’s advisers have mentioned that they are not ready to present his education plan in full, there are some points that have been mentioned over the past few months.

One of the main points to come from the McCain campaign is the need to support parents in their choice of schools for their children. Federal funding for schools would be maintained under the McCain plan, but more money would be given to parents in the form of vouchers to send children to public, private, or religious schools if their current school system is failing. School vouchers, McCain feels, will create competition among schools for both students and highly qualified teachers.

While McCain feels the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) could be fixed, he would like to first provide more tutoring to students who are underperforming before reforming NCLB.

In addition, McCain also supports merit pay for teachers.

Barack Obama’s Education Plan
More detailed information has been released to the public on Obama’s agenda for education reform.

Obama feels that NCLB has been ineffective and poorly funded, forgoing a well-rounded education in favor of inadequately designed tests to gauge progress. In order to better gauge students’ progress, Obama would like to work with the states’ governors to come up with better-written tests. He also wants to improve NCLB’s accountability system to support schools that need improvement.

Another priority in Obama’s education plan is math and science education. Obama hopes to recruit math and science degree graduates to teach in K-12 schools, while also ensuring strong math and science curriculum is available to all grade levels.

While Obama also feels parents should have options for their children if their school systems are failing them, he feels the choice should be limited to public charter schools.

Obama’s vision is that legislation will also be passed to help invest in middle school intervention strategies to help prevent students from dropping out of school. Other programs that would gain more funding include afterschool programs, summer learning opportunities, and college outreach programs. Transitional bilingual education is also supported in Obama’s educational plan.

In addition to merit pay and mentoring programs for beginning teachers to increase retention, Obama has also proposed requiring all education schools to be accredited.