Student Well-Being

Campaign Notebook

January 28, 2004 3 min read
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Dean Strikes a Chord With One Constituency: Iowa’s Younger ‘Voters’

Election 2004

It may not be much help in his very real quest for the White House, but Howard Dean won something in Iowa last week.

While the former governor of Vermont finished a distant third in the Jan. 19 Iowa Democratic caucuses, behind Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, he came in first among students taking part in the Iowa Mock Caucus.

From Jan. 12 to Jan. 14, as the real race for the Democratic presidential nomination tightened, 8,752 students in some 200 schools around the state cast their mock votes in an educational exercise sponsored by the Iowa secretary of state’s office. The result: 27.3 percent of student voters backed Mr. Dean, followed by 18.6 percent for Mr. Kerry. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who dropped out of the race on Jan. 15—just after the student voting ended—finished third with 11.8 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of Mr. Edwards, who received 11.4 percent.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri didn’t fare any better among the students than he did with the actual voters: He received 9.6 percent of the mock vote.

Students can enroll online for the 2004 National Student/Parent Mock Election, scheduled for October 28.

Organizers say this was not the first time Iowa’s students and adult voters were not on the same page.

“In Iowa, the students overwhelmingly chose Lamar Alexander the year their parents chose Bob Dole,” said John Herklotz, the vice chairman of the National Student/Parent Mock Election, in a reference to the 1996 Republican caucuses. “Their choice, we discovered, was based on the fact that Lamar Alexander did not run negative commercials. Perhaps history might have been different had the adults evaluated candidates as the children did.”

The Iowa Mock Election was part of the National Student/Parent Mock Election, a voter education project that conducts such student votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire, which was holding the first- in-the-nation binding presidential primary on Jan. 27, held its student mock voting Jan. 12-23. The results were to be released late last week. More than 125 New Hampshire schools signed up to participate in the first such event in the Granite State.

“The assumption is likely to be that the New Hampshire students’ vote will reflect their parents’ choices,” said Mr. Herklotz.

For organizers of the student election, however, it is not about how adults vote; it is about how students view political leaders who could affect their lives.

“We must encourage young people to make their voices heard,” Laura Kessler, the state coordinator for the New Hampshire mock election, said. “It is their future that is being decided by this election. Their wars, their educational opportunities, their environment, their health care will all be voted on this year when America chooses its leader.”

Clark on Adequacy

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark waded into the thicket of state school finance policy recently in South Carolina, whose Feb. 3 Democratic primary is the most closely watched contest after this week’s vote in New Hampshire.

The presidential hopeful said during a Jan. 15 speech at Dillon High School in the town of Dillon, S.C., that the state should provide more than a “minimally adequate” education.

“We should be talking about how to make our schools the best in the world, not how to make them ‘minimally adequate,’” he said, according to The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C. “This made me really angry when I read this.”

The state of South Carolina is fighting a decade-long court battle with a group of rural school districts seeking more money for education. The state supreme court ruled in 1999 that the state constitution requires South Carolina to provide a “minimally adequate” education and that the state was not providing that level of schooling for some students. The court upheld the school finance lawsuit, urged the legislature to remedy the situation, and sent the case back to a lower court. No school-finance plan has emerged from lawmakers, so the case now is being heard.

In his Dillon High speech, according to The State, Mr. Clark said there was an “education gap” between schools in rich neighborhoods and those in poor ones.

“For too many children in America, the education they get depends on where they live and how much money their parents have,” he reportedly said.

—Natasha N. Smith & Alan Richard

A version of this article appeared in the January 28, 2004 edition of Education Week as Campaign Notebook

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