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The Democrats’ Platform

By Michele McNeil — August 11, 2008 1 min read
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The party platform that Democrats adopted over the weekend in Pittsburgh borrows straight from the Barack Obama playbook, especially when it comes to education.

The platform, which is meant to detail the party’s policy positions (but is often forgotten soon after the convention), will be formally approved by delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver later this month.

In writing this blog item, I’m working off the draft that was being considered by the platform committee. A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee told me in an e-mail today that they don’t have the final, electronic version of the platform ready for distribution. When I get it, I’ll post it here.

The education part of the “Renewing America’s Promise” platform, according to the draft, calls for:

High-quality early childhood education available to every child, which includes big investments in Head Start and pre-K.

New plans to increase teacher pay developed with teachers, and not “imposed on them.”

And one of Obama’s signature lines, an urging that parents “turn off the TV ... “

The platform is pretty vague, including when it addresses the No Child Left Behind Act:

We will end the practice of labeling a school and its students as failures and then throwing our hands up and walking away from them without having provided the resources and supports these students need. But this alone is not an education policy. It's just a starting point.

Perhaps more interesting is comparing this year’s platform with the one from 2004. Joe Williams at Democrats for Education Reform points out a subtle, yet not to be overlooked, difference: a bit more support this year for public charter schools.

Other differences I noticed in this year’s platform: a nod to the important role of effective principals (and not just teachers), more attention to revamping teacher pay, and little to no mention of teaching good citizenship and character education (which got its own small section in the 2004 platform.) And No Child Left Behind got less mention in 2004, when the focus then was on low funding levels, and a criticism that President Bush spent $27 billion less on education than what he promised. This year, the platform (though still vague) hints at the need to retool how the law approaches accountability and assessment.