Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., has delivered what might be seen as the first education policy speech of the 2004 presidential campaign.
Mr. Edwards, 49, has not announced his candidacy formally, although he did joke in a recent appearance on Comedy Central’s faux news program, “The Daily Show,” that he would choose that venue at some point in the future for the official throwing of his hat into the ring.
In any case, the potential contender for the Democratic nomination has taken some telling steps this fall, including a recent swing through the key primary state of New Hampshire and a series of policy talks, including the speech on education last month.
In the speech, the first-term senator accused President Bush of seeking to underfund the ambitious requirements in the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, and outlined a series of steps—some new, some building on existing federal efforts—to improve precollegiate education and expand access to higher education.
Among Mr. Edwards’ prescriptions were creating federal incentives to attract teachers to the neediest schools, providing $1 billion more for public school choice, and requiring states to make it easier to dismiss ineffective teachers.
“No single factor at school has a larger impact than teacher quality,” he said during the Nov. 21 address at the University of Maryland College Park.
He proposed paying the college costs of those who commit to teaching for five years in schools that have difficulty attracting teachers, and subsidizing a $5,000 home-mortgage credit for teachers who buy homes in low-income communities where they teach.
Sen. Edwards also proposed that the federal government give states the money to make tuition free for the first year at every public university and community college. In return, according to his plan, students would have to spend an average of 10 hours a week in a work- study program, school or community service, or a part-time job.
Join the Crowd
If he does run, Mr. Edwards would join what is likely to be a crowded field of Democrats aiming to make President Bush a one-term chief executive like his father.
Former Vice President Al Gore recently launched a media blitz in conjunction with the release of a book he and his wife, Tipper, wrote about families. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mr. Gore’s 2000 running mate, has said he’ll run if Mr. Gore doesn’t. And Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri are edging toward initiating candidacies.
The only announced Democratic candidate so far: outgoing Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 2002 edition of Education Week as Sen. Edwards Lays Out Plan for Education