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Published in Print: October 1, 2008, as Obama Backs a ‘Basic Right to Learn’ for All the World’s Children

Campaign K-12 Notebook

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Obama Backs a 'Basic Right to Learn' for All the World's Children

Sen. Barack Obama pledged last week to spend $2 billion to help eliminate the international “education gap” by 2015, if he is elected president.

He made the pledge in a speech via satellite Sept. 25 to a meeting in New York City of the Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton’s nonpartisan venture that addresses global issues such as health care, poverty, and education. The speech contained few details on the $2 billion fund, such as whether that would be an annual amount, and how the money would be spent.

What the Democratic presidential nominee did say was: “Above all, we must do our part to see that all children have the basic right to learn. There is nothing more disappointing than a child denied the hope that comes with going to school, and there is nothing more dangerous than a child who is taught to distrust and then to destroy.”

Sen. Obama was borrowing from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s proposed Education for All Act, first introduced in 2004 and reintroduced in 2007. The Illinois Democrat gave Sen. Clinton credit in his speech, calling her a “true champion for children.”

Sen. Clinton, who was Sen. Obama’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, estimated in 2004 that the cost of providing universal basic education for out-of-school children throughout the world could range from $5 billion to $10 billion a year. As a presidential candidate, the New York senator proposed spending $3 billion a year by 2012.

The year 2015 is the goal set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization to achieve universal free education worldwide. According to UNESCO, an estimated 72 million of the world’s children were out of school in 2005, down from 96 million in 1999. Girls make up a large proportion of those numbers: In 2005, 66 percent of out-of-school children in South and West Asia were girls.

When Sen. John McCain of Arizona addressed the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, in person, on the same day that Sen. Obama made his remarks, the Republican presidential nominee didn’t mention education. He did pledge, however, to lead the world in improving child and maternal health.
— Michele McNeil

'Reform' Democrats' Group Seeks a Minute of Money

Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee that supports education redesign policies such as charter schools and alternative pay for teachers, organized an “education minute” last week to raise money for Sen. Barack Obama.

The organization, which some view as an effort to help counterbalance teacher unions’ influence on Democratic Party politics, asked donors to go to the DFER portion of Sen. Obama’s fundraising site on Sept. 25 at exactly 4:31 p.m. and give up to the maximum legal amount of $2,300 per person. (In an advisory, the organization helpfully reminded donors that their spouses could give, too.)

The group also urged donors to head over to the DFER fundraising portion of the Democratic National Committee’s Web site and give as much as $28,500.

Those who contributed more than $1,000 will get an invitation to an event featuring Obama adviser Jon Schnur and Kevin Johnson, a former National Basketball Association player who is running for mayor of Sacramento, Calif.

If the “education minute” resulted in a major cash bump for Sen. Obama and the DNC, it would help raise the profile of Democrats for Education Reform, whose budding influence was evident during the Democratic convention in Denver in August, when Joe Williams, the organization’s executive director, got to sit in the party committee’s luxury box during Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech.— Alyson Klein

McCain's Education Ad had Limited On-Air Run

An education-themed TV ad released by Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign last month attacking Sen. Barack Obama’s record on schools ran mostly in relatively small media markets, generally in Midwestern battleground states, according to USA Today.

The ad ran a total of 36 times from Sept. 10 to Sept. 16, including 12 times in Sioux City, Iowa, and 10 times in Rochester, Minn., the newspaper reported as part of a “case study” that dissected the truthfulness of the ad. The commercial also ran four times in Grand Rapids, Mich., and twice each in Pittsburgh; Wausau, Wis.; Wheeling, W.Va.; and Youngstown, Ohio; and twice on national cable channels.

The ad was widely scrutinized by news organizations, including Education Week, which was cited, out of context, as the source for an unfavorable assessment of the Illinois senator’s record. Various analyses concluded that the ad seriously distorted his record on education. ("McCain, Obama Spar on Education," Sept. 17, 2008.)

Some political ads, especially those meant to generate debate, aren’t aired often and are simply released to generate buzz, political experts note. The Washington Post reported last week that in the two-week period that ended Sept. 21, the McCain campaign released 25 ads, 12 of which aired fewer than 25 times. And the Obama campaign released 28 ads, 11 of which aired fewer than 25 times, according to the Post. — Alyson Klein

Vol. 28, Issue 06, Page 25

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