The Candidates on Education


Where do Barack Obama and John McCain stand on education?

Surprisingly, they're both in favor of it. Alas, both effectively see a larger role for the federal government, which has historically had a smaller-than-the-states role in K-12 schooling than states and municipalities and has really sucked at doing anything other than spending bad money after worst money in this area. The general crapitude of No Child Left Behind isn't an accident.

One of McCain's big applause lines at the Republican National Convention was his declaration in favor of school choice. Alas, according to the AP, he meant only that the Washington, D.C. school voucher program should be expanded:

The Arizona senator did propose a federal voucher program when he ran for president in 2000, but his advisers say President Bush's No Child Left Behind Law, enacted in 2002, is aimed at giving parents more choice. McCain would make improvements to that; for example, he would expand children's access to tutoring services…. "I think it [No Child] needs to be built on, revised and fixed."

Read: Forget about changing anything. To his (slight) credit, McCain wants federal spending on K-12 education to stay about the same as it is currently (how he'll hold that line is questionable).

For his part, Obama too wants to "fix the broken promises of No Child Left Behind," partly through more federal spending on charter schools:

Obama doesn't think vouchers are the answer; many Democrats agree. On Tuesday, the Illinois senator gave his answer to the school-choice dilemma: Create an array of new public schools, and double the federal money for charter schools to more than $400 million.

"Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow," Obama said in Riverside, Ohio. "And charters that aren't will get shut down. I want experimentation, but I also want accountability."

That's good, and so is the senator's embrace of performance pay for teachers (though those plans never seem to make it all the way through the legislative process). Obama plans to pay for new spending increases he wants by ending "corporate tax deductions for CEO pay, cut[ting] congressional and federal agency spending and delay[ing] NASA's moon and Mars missions."

Lots of luck to the kids entering K-12 schools. Prediction for school kids: Very little will change due to policy set at the federal level during your time spent there. Prediction for taxpayers: You will be paying more in federal taxes for education during the next four years, regardless of who is elected.

More here.