Sen. John McCain has come a long way on education since just a few months ago, when the topic didn’t even appear on his campaign Web site.
Within the past month, the Arizona Republican has endorsed the Education Equality Project; criticized his Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, for not doing the same; and written about education reform in a New York City newspaper.
The Education Equality Project seeks to advance the idea that schools are primarily responsible for student achievement and don’t need to rely on health and community services. It also promotes greater accountability for teachers and school leaders and more public school choice. The project is supported by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, among others. (“2 New Coalitions Seek Influence on Campaigns,” June 18, 2008.)
In an Aug. 1 address to the National Urban League, Sen. McCain called the project a “practical plan for delivering change and restoring hope for children and parents.”
Sen. McCain’s own plan calls for more teacher alternative-certification programs, more funding for school technology, and merit bonuses for teachers linked to test scores.
He reiterated his support for the equality project in an Aug. 3 opinion piece in the New York Daily News. He called on Sen. Obama to join him in support of the project, and he criticized the Democrat for continuing to “defer to the teachers’ unions, instead of committing to real reform.”
Sen. Obama has not endorsed the Education Equality Project, but Danielle Gray, his deputy policy adviser, said in June that the candidate generally supported it.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, criticized Sen. McCain’s Urban League speech in a statement.
“This follows his more than a quarter-century in Congress without showing interest or initiating policy to help public education,” she said.
However, the two Democrats who launched the equality project, Mr. Klein and the Rev. Al Sharpton, didn’t hesitate to praise Sen. McCain for endorsing their proposal, saying that education reform is “above partisan politics.”
A version of this article appeared in the August 13, 2008 edition of Education Week