The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Top 2008 presidential candidates voice stances on education

By Chris Webb/reporter

(Part one of a three-part series looking at presidential campaign issues. This week, The Collegian looks at education.)

Campaign season is upon us. Many candidates will fade out. Some political topics will take a backseat to more controversial issues (war, gun control, foreign policy). But issues that affect TCC students—education reform, health care reform, immigration—will not fade.

The Collegian looks at the positions on these issues of the top three candidates from each major party: Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards and Republicans John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.

Students at TCC have reaped some of the benefits of the U.S. education system, such as government-issued scholarships or a teacher who helped along the way. But many students have also suffered the flip side, overcrowded classrooms, under-funded public schools and a curriculum marked by a focus on standardized testing. Every candidate has ideas on education reform, but their methods differ greatly.

Some advocate the voucher system, a system in which a child is allotted a certain amount of money, possibly in the form of a voucher, and it can be applied to whatever school the parent chooses, public, private or otherwise. Others are against vouchers and believe that society should focus on making every school a “good” school. School prayer, and whether to allow it, is another issue that candidates aren’t going to be neutral about. Teacher testing and pay are also in focus this time around, many believing that testing teachers every year (which they are) shows disrespect for the profession.

Everyone seems to agree that teachers need to be paid more, but do not always agree how to establish balanced teacher salaries. The issue that probably affects most students at TCC is how much of the federal budget will go toward higher education.

Clinton believes in establishing a right to education from Pre-K through college. Clinton advocates paying schools, not teachers, more based on merit or performance; she believes in paying teachers more over all, saying a merit pay would create distorted competition at schools. She believes the education system needs reform, which starts with not only paying teacher’s more, but modernizing the industry. She is an advocate for public schools and a strong opponent of any “voucher” system. She also voted to raise funds available for college students seeking Pell grants.

“Let’s recommit ourselves to the idea that every young person in America has the right to a high-quality education. Because you know what? There are states in our country who actually plan how many prison beds they will need by looking at third-grade reading scores. I, for one, would much rather pay for pre-kindergarten than for more prison beds.” (Clinton at the 2007 Take Back America Conference)

Obama’s first bill in the Senate (August 2007) was to increase Pell grants to $5,100. Obama also wants to eliminate wasteful aid to private lenders and give the money directly to students. He also believes in organizing public schools so teaching as a profession is more structured with master teachers and apprentices. He plans to provide free tuition to students who hold a “B” average.

“We’ve got a story to tell that isn’t just against something but is for something. We know that we’re the party of opportunity. We know that in a global economy that’s more connective and more competitive, we’re the party that will guarantee every American an affordable, world-class, lifelong, top-notch education, from early childhood to high school from college to on-the-job training. We know that that’s what we’re about.” (Obama at the 2006 Take Back America Conference)

Edwards wants to make community colleges and public universities free. Edwards also wants to create “second chance” schools for dropouts who want to get back on track. He is also an advocate for the College For Everyone plan. For any student who works at least 10 hours a week, the government will pay for tuition or books to community colleges and four-year public universities. Edwards is now against the No Child Left Behind program saying it is too under funded.

“My program, College for Everyone, would make the first year of college free for all qualified students who take a part-time job. Over the last two years, this idea has become a reality. A pilot program in Greene County, S.C., has provided over $300,000 in aid to more than 80 students and college enrollment has increased by 25 percent. Many of these students never dreamed of going to college, and they now know that if they are willing to work hard, college is a real option. Every child deserves the same opportunity.” (in Ending Poverty in America by John Edwards, 2007)

Giuliani wants to eliminate the Board of Education and improve schools by taking on unions and special interest groups. He is an advocate for vouchers. He is against mandatory prayer in school and also advocates opening schools on weekends for “catch-up.”

“You only get one chance to educate a child, and if you screw it up, then it’s very hard to correct it later. [We] should be ashamed of ourselves, that we do not have the political courage to take on the unions, the special interests and everything else that are holding our children back!” (Giuliani in his 2000 State of City Address in New York City)

McCain is against nationally imposed standardized testing but supports tax-free savings accounts. He also proposed the Educating America’s Children For Tomorrow Act. The act would help increase funding for teachers, give parents more options to save for college, provide more opportunities to disadvantaged children and encourage English and foreign language courses. McCain is a strong advocate of vouchers. He also supports testing and paying teachers on a merit system. McCain is also an advocate for more student loan/scholarship funding.

“We have to have choice and competition in our schools in order to improve our school system, including charter schools, including a test voucher program. And in order to make that system work, we have to have good teachers, and I would argue that merit pay, rewards for good teachers and helping bad teachers find another line of work is the way we must go about it.” (McCain in the 1999 Republican Debate at Dartmouth College)

An advocate of vouchers and private-tutor funding, Thompson believes that the answer to the education system’s problems is to restore the power to local and state governments.

“Schools continue to fail our children and endanger America’s future competitiveness. Increasing amounts of federal funding and government mandates have not resulted in real improvement. The federal government can assist state and localities through grants with fewer strings and less bureaucracy but should not take schools out of the hands of parents and local officials.” (Thompson in his candidacy announcement speech Sept. 6)

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