Education Opinion

The Education Agenda: Candidate McCain

By Anthony Cody — September 01, 2008 2 min read
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We have seen the tremendous effect our president can have on education policy over the past seven years. Education may not be the number one issue on most voter’s minds, but there are approximately four million teachers in this nation, and that is a lot of votes, so let’s take a look at the stance each of the two leading candidates are taking on education issues. This week I am going to focus on the views and record of John McCain. Next week I will review Barack Obama’s positions. Please read, and share your own views below.

John McCain’s official site states that NCLB has revealed “dismal facts” about our schools. He says this means we must “seek and find solutions.” To that end, he calls for more competition, meaning schools should be competing for the best teachers, and for students as well. That means parents should be able to choose the school their children attend. He and his wife sent their child to a parochial school, and believe other parents should have support for that choice as well. His site states: “He believes all federal financial support must be predicated on providing parents the ability to move their children, and the dollars associated with them, from failing schools.” When he addressed the NAACP in July, he stated:

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 -- 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.

His site also says

As president, John McCain will pursue reforms that address the underlying cultural problems in our education system - a system that still seeks to avoid genuine accountability and responsibility for producing well-educated children.

In terms of specific proposals, McCain states that he will shift 5% of Title II funds to states to recruit teachers who graduate in the top 25% of their class or participate in alternative recruitment programs such as Teach For America. He calls for bonuses for “high performing” teachers who locate in challenging settings, and for teachers who boost student test scores and “enhance the school-wide environment,” with principals determining who should be rewarded. He also proposes several initiatives promoting virtual learning such as online tutors and online courses.

When asked if evolution should be taught alongside creationism, he replied that local school boards should be allowed to make that choice.

He voted against spending $52 million for “21st century community learning centers,” and against shifting $11 billion from corporate tax loopholes to education. He voted for memorial prayers and religious symbols in schools, for school vouchers in the Washington, DC, public schools, and to allocate $75 million for abstinence education. In 2006, McCain voted against restoring $7 billion in President Bush’s tax cuts to education. McCain voted against increasing funding for HeadStart and for special education programs.

McCain credits one teacher, William B. Ravenel, from his days at Episcopal High School, with having had a profound influence. He described this influence, and concluded:

Every child should be blessed with a teacher like I had, and to learn at institutions with high academic standards and codes of conduct that reinforce the values their parents try to impart to them. Many students do have that opportunity. But too many do not. And government should be concerned with their fate. I supported the No Child Left Behind Act because it recognizes that we can no longer accept high standards for some students and low standards for others. With honest reporting of student progress we begin to see what is happening to students who were previously invisible to us. That is progress on its own, but we can and we must do better.

He goes on to say:

Theirs is an underpaid profession, dedicated to the service of others, which offers little in the way of the rewards that much of popular culture encourages us to crave -- wealth and celebrity. But though it might lack much in the way of creature comforts and renown, teaching offers a reward far more valuable: the profound satisfaction that comes from knowing you have made a difference for the better in someone else's life. Good teachers occupy a place in our memory that accords them a reverence we give few others. We should be wise enough to understand that those who work diligently and lovingly to educate the children we entrust to their care, deserve the gratitude and support many of us wish we had given those of our own teachers, who once made such a difference in our own lives.
We should reward the best of them with merit pay, and encourage teachers who have lost their focus on the children they teach to find another line of work. Schools should compete to be innovative, flexible and student-centered institutions, not safe havens for the uninspired and unaccountable.

What do you think about John McCain’s stands on education? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? Should educators reward him with our votes?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.