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Obama Visits a High School, But Says Little About Education

By Michele McNeil — August 06, 2008 1 min read
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From guest blogger Mary Ann Zehr.

Ohio’s governor Ted Strickland accompanied presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama yesterday on a campaign visit to Austintown Fitch High School in Youngstown, Ohio. Though the two Democratic politicians didn’t talk much about K-12 education, despite the setting, “we did talk about the cost of higher education,” the governor told me in a phone interview.

But at Obama’s town meeting at the high school, one member of the audience asked him why the federal government hasn’t become more involved in primary and secondary schools, the governor said.

“He answered correctly,” in the governor’s view. He said Obama told the questioner that, except for some areas such as special education, schools traditionally have been under the direction of state and local governments, and that will continue to be the case. Obama also touched on education in his public remarks at the high school, saying that the federal No Child Left Behind Act lacks funding and expressing concern that educators are making decisions about children based on standardized high-stakes testing. (You can find a video of the meeting here.)

I asked the governor if he had any concern that the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are both senators and don’t have experience as executives. He brushed off such worries, saying that when he ran for governor in 2006, some people raised similar questions. He was a congressman at the time and had been a nursing home administrator but didn’t have high-level experience as an executive. Strickland said that for a governor or a president, “the primary responsibility is to construct a vision and lay out the goals and make sure very competent individuals are given your support to carry out that agenda.”

Strickland made education reform a big part of his platform when he was running for governor and has been holding public forums all over his state to hear suggestions on education reform. Some observers have said Strickland would make a good running mate for Obama, but the governor has already told the press he’s not interested.

“My obligation is here in Ohio,” he told me in the telephone interview yesterday.