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Is Obama’s Education Plan More of the Same Old, Same Old?

By Michele McNeil — June 13, 2008 1 min read
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The New York Times’ David Brooks sounds very much like John McCain’s education adviser Lisa Graham Keegan when he challenges Sen. Barack Obama’s plans for education reform in an op-ed piece that appears today.

Yesterday, Keegan laid out the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s vision for reporters, and said he shouldn’t apologize for not having unveiled his education plan yet. “It’s very easy to write a detailed program for an old system,” Keegan said in criticizing Obama’s plan, which has been on his Web site for months.

Brooks makes a similar point: “He proposes dozens of programs to build on top of the current system, but it’s not clear that he would challenge it. He’s all carrot, no stick. He’s politically astute — giving everybody the impression he’s on their side — but substantively vague. Change just isn’t that easy.”

And Brooks continues: “But when you look at the actual proposals Obama offers, he’s doesn’t really address the core issues. He’s for the vast panoply of pre-K and after-school programs that most of us are for. But the crucial issues are: What do you do with teachers and administrators who are failing? How rigorously do you enforce accountability? Obama doesn’t engage the thorny, substantive matters that separate the two camps.”

Obama, though, has dipped his toe in some of those thorny issues. He dared to mention vouchers to a newspaper editorial board, and even talked about merit pay before the National Education Association convention. But that was before he was the presumptive Democratic nominee. Now that he is, will that give him more—or less—license to tackle these difficult issues?

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