Election Education 2008: Presidential Candidates’ Views on Education

A.C.Rieke

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if we had to make our choice for president based only on the candidates’ written views, proposals, and voting records, without ever hearing them speak, seeing what they look like, or being bombarded by attack ads and media opinions? If that were the case, it seems that the presidential race would solely be about the issues and how the candidates’ views fall in line with our own.

 

Election Day is right around the corner, and with all of the media talk flying around and causing distractions, it can be difficult for everyday Americans to focus on the real issues facing the 2008 presidential race. One of these issues is education. While it may not come up as often as the economy, the Iraq war, or healthcare, education is still an important issue because it truly affects every American. Some of the major topics concerning education include the following:

  • Charter schools: These schools are privately-run, but publicly-funded. What, exactly, does this mean? In a nutshell, charter schools receive government funds, but don’t have all of the rules that normal public schools do. Some believe this can make for better-quality education; others think just the opposite.
  • Federal funding: In other words, the Department of Education. Although state and local governments are in charge of most education spending, the DOE supplies the federal funding. Where schools get their funding and what amount they receive has become a major concern to some.
  • No Child Left Behind: Who hasn’t heard of this law, which calls for high standards and testing-accountability for all schools and all children? Needless to say, while some support the “idea” behind this law, most agree that there are major problems with it.
  • Teacher testing and merit pay: States are in charge of setting requirements for certifying teachers, which usually include passing a standardized test. Opponents of standardized tests feel that test results can be biased and discouraging; therefore, other ways to certify teachers need to be explored. Merit pay is the idea of paying teachers an increased amount based on their proven performance in the classroom. But, the question is, how do we choose to measure a teacher’s performance?
  • Vouchers: Instead of families having to send their children to a specific public school based on their geographical location, vouchers are like coupons that give parents a choice and let them decide which school they want their children to attend. Some believe this will increase school competition, thereby forcing failing schools to improve.

So, what are the candidates’ positions on these educational issues? We dug past the controversies of the hour to find out and offer a quick summary of the candidates’ plans and voting records in the three related posts that follow.