McCain spent about half of his speech yesterday to the N.A.A.C.P. outlining his education plans for America. The audience heard an approach much different than the plan proposed by Senator Obama.
McCain touted his support for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program and criticized Democrats, including Obama, for opposing the initiative described by the U.S. Department of Education this way:
McCain noted that Obama recently voiced his opposition to vouchers before the American Federation of Teachers. McCain remarked that,
“The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program provides low-income families in our nation's capital more options for obtaining a quality education by offering scholarships for up to $7,500 for students to attend participating D.C. private schools.”
According to a U.S. Department of Education’s press release dated June 21, 2007, parents in the D.C. program see benefits from the initiative.
“All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?”
“The Program had a substantial and consistently positive impact on parental satisfaction and their perceptions of school safety. Of the parents whose child received a scholarship, 74% gave their child's school a grade of "A" or "B" compared to 55% of parents whose children did not receive scholarships."
In his speech, McCain stood solidly with expanding parents’ rights to find an alternative to failing public schools for their children’s education.
“Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.
"We should also offer more choices to those who wish to become teachers. Many thousands of highly qualified men and women have great knowledge, wisdom, and experience to offer public school students. But a monopoly on teacher certification prevents them from getting that chance. You can be a Nobel Laureate and not qualify to teach in most public schools today. They don't have all the proper credits in educational "theory" or "methodology" -- all they have is learning and the desire and ability to share it. If we're putting the interests of students first, then those qualifications should be enough.
"If I am elected president, school choice for all who want it, an expansion of Opportunity Scholarships, and alternative certification for teachers will all be part of a serious agenda of education reform. [emphases added throughout] (snip)
"We will pay bonuses to teachers who take on the challenge of working in our most troubled schools -- because we need their fine minds and good hearts to help turn those schools around. We will award bonuses as well to our highest-achieving teachers. And no longer will we measure teacher achievement by conformity to process. We will measure it by the success of their students.
"Moreover, the funds for these bonuses will not be controlled by faraway officials -- in Washington, in a state capital, or even in a district office. Under my reforms, we will entrust both the funds and the responsibilities where they belong in the office of the school principal. (snip)
"So I propose to direct 500 million dollars in current federal funds to build new virtual schools, and to support the development of online courses for students. Through competitive grants, we will allocate another 250 million dollars to support state programs expanding online education opportunities, including the creation of new public virtual charter schools."
McCain also proposed the construction of 45 new nuclear plants, but his major emphasis was reserved for education.
After the speech McCain admitted that, while the audience was cordial to him, he probably would not receive a majority of its votes, but that doesn’t matter, he said. He intends to be president of those who vote for, as well as against, him.
His position on education differentiates him from Obama. It’s Obama’s move-the-power inside the Beltway vs. McCain’s empower parents and school officials at the local level.
While there are some points of similarities (e.g., on rewarding the most effective teachers), the two candidates’ perspectives on the role of the Federal Government in K-12 education are polar opposites.
[hat tip: American Thinker reader “EyesOpen” who asked, in a response to a July 11 article on Obama, “When is American Thinker going to start covering McCain's policies and positions.”]