Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Obama vs. Clinton and Edwards on education reform

As I've highlighted in previous emails, when it comes to education reform, relative to what I'd like to see, Sen. Obama has disappointed me in terms of what he's said (and not said).  But my views -- for a Democrat anyway -- are WAY out there.  Given the political realities in the Democratic party nationwide, esp. during the primaries, it might be more relevant to compare Sen. Obama to the other two major Democratic candidates.  My take on this is that Sen. Clinton is no better on this issue and Sen. Edwards is worse.  Take NCLB as an example:
1) Here's an email from Dems for Ed Reform board member Dianne Piche of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, blasting Sen. Clinton for her incorrect "unfunded mandate" attack on NCLB.

Today I was incensed to learn that HRC has escalated her pandering to the Wrong People in Iowa and elsewhere.  Check out the new ad, on YouTube, in this link.

This one happens to hit me where it hurts most:  the unfunded mandate vs. civil rights debate.  As many of you know, my organization and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights intervened in the NCLB litigation in Connecticut (on behalf of the NAACP and low-income kids).  We challenged the argument proffered by AG Richard Blumenthal that NCLB is an unlawful “unfunded mandate.”  (The judge threw out most of the state’s claims; the one remaining claim is proceeding at the federal judiciary’s usual snail’s pace.)  Similar arguments were advanced w/o success by the NEA in their anti-NCLB litigation in Michigan

If anyone would like more info on these cases, please let me know. []

2) And here's Edwards' lameness:

John Edwards on NCLB: We May Have to Ditch It

Even the presidential candidate with one of the most comprehensive plans to re-tool the No Child Left Behind Act is now saying those fixes might not be enough.

At a campaign stop in Iowa Monday, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards spoke for about two minutes about NCLB, even going as far to say that the federal education law is really just an attempt by President Bush to privatize public schools. Edwards said that even with his proposals to amend NCLB, "it may be that this just can't be fixed." And if that's the case, then it's time to "ditch it," Edwards said. This is one of the first times we've heard another Democrat besides New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson talk about completely getting rid of NCLB. (Although in a new campaign ad, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton talks about ending the "unfunded mandate" of NCLB). The thing is, testing, accountability, and data-driven decision-making are here to stay—and many states were leading the charge on this before NCLB came along.

3) Here's an Op Ed from the LA Times (,1,193485.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=1&cset=true) on the candidates and how they stack up on education.  Some nice words at the end for Obama:

For all the flaws written into the No Child Left Behind Act, Bush emerged as a true "education president" by insisting, in word and deed, that schools had to do better. As we contemplate his successor, we look for candidates who consider schools a national priority, who will press for high standards and uphold such basic values as the separation of church and classroom. This means a firm public stand against school prayer and the teaching of creationism and "intelligent design." And it means withdrawing the millions of dollars the Bush administration has devoted to abstinence-only sex education.

Schools must provide innovation, choice and accountability. We look for candidates who encourage charter schools with funding and political support, who call for and fund more innovative public schools, including magnet schools, and who support responsible home schooling. However, we also look to a president to take a firm stand against private-school vouchers and related tax breaks, which are the antithesis of a free and public education, and which make true accountability nearly impossible. Republicans Mitt Romney, Giuliani and McCain have been steadfast proponents of using public money to fund children's private education. Yet private schools do not have to hire highly qualified teachers, administer standardized tests or meet other accountability standards. And vouchers will almost surely result in grosslyunequal education, with affluent and educated parents better able to take advantage of the system than low-income families.

A president can fight low expectations for students by rewarding states that raise their academic standards and lower their dropout rates. The next president should continue Bush's work by supporting the accountability principles of No Child Left Behind, but also reforming the law's tremendous shortcomings. Just as the law was a true bipartisan effort by Bush and some Democrats in Congress, approaches among the candidates tend to split along irregular lines.

So far, only Obama has emerged with a platform that marks him as an education leader, through "innovation districts" that receive federal money for modeling excellence, making rigorous high school courses more common and available, cutting red tape on credentialing more qualified teachers and expanding access to both preschool and college. McCain's website doesn't even mention schools as an issue, which might be a good thing, as in the past he has spoken up for prayer, favored vouchers, supportedincluding creationism as part of the curriculum and opposed accountability in federal education funding.


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