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Education Makes More Than a Cameo Appearance in Obama Ad

By Alyson Klein — October 30, 2008 1 min read
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Sen. Barack Obama’s half-hour “special” featured the education snippet from his Denver acceptance speech, praise for reform at a Colorado high school, and a coupon-clipping educator who works an extra job to support her teaching habit.

Obama didn’t provide any new details of his education plan in the ad, which aired on several TV networks. And he didn’t mention his $18 billion spending plan for education, or even his $10 billion pre-K proposal. But the Democratic presidential nominee did highlight his plan to offer tuition tax credits to college students in exchange for community or national service. Check out a transcript of the ad here.

Obama’s message in the ad trod the same fine line on education policy he’s walked the entire campaign: lauding teachers for their hard work while embracing education redesign, standards, and accountability.

New Mexico teacher and single mom Juliana Sanchez is portrayed as a sort of heroine/American Everywoman struggling to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary. Says Sanchez:

Financially, the pressure is just to keep your head above water. So, you don’t feel like you’re drowning all the time. Health care, food, electric, gas—it takes out so much out of my pay check. You go buy a gallon of milk and you’re like going ok—is it a gallon or half gallon? What can I afford? You feel like you can’t breathe even though you need to breathe.

In the ad, Obama praises Sanchez’s dedication to her job and her willingness to constantly improve her craft by showing her taking professional development courses.

And he also mentioned the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts in Thornton, Colo., the site of Obama’s most comprehensive speech on education during the campaign. The school is run by Obama education adviser Mike Johnston, who helped start New Leaders For New Schools, which helps train principals for high-need, urban districts.

We can create schools that work, because I’ve seen them. Three years ago, only half the high school seniors at the Mapleton School in Thornton, Colorado, were accepted into college. But after a rigorous school reform program, this year all 44 seniors were accepted.

You can watch the education portion of the ad here:

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