John McCain and Barack Obama on the issue of education

By Denebola
Published: October 2008

By Roxanne Glazier

As November 4 quickly approaches, the presidential candidates promise different but important changes to America’s educational system.

Both Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, and Republican candidate, John McCain, are determined to improve the nation’s schools, which they both note have been falling behind those of countries around the world.

Obama wants to begin a comprehensive education system with an annual cost of $18 billion. The funding would be spent on several projects such as hiring new teachers, reducing dropouts, and early childhood education.

McCain and Obama both want to make college more affordable to students across the nation. McCain wants to lower the tax burden on families sending their children to college by simplifying the existing benefits.

They agree that the financial aid forms are needlessly long and complicated and pledge to simplify the forms so more people will apply for aid and go to college. Obama would like to eliminate the form altogether by adding a question on tax forms for people applying for financial aid.

Obama would also create a tax break for college students called the “American Opportunity Tax Credit. Under Obama’s plan, students would receive $4,000 of free tuition in return for 100 hours of community service each year. Students enrolled in public universities would be given assistance in paying two-thirds of their annual tuition.

To improve the quality of teaching and support systems for educators nationwide, McCain wants to hire more teachers from the top quarter of graduating classes. Teachers would be paid additional money if their students improve. McCain would use the test scores of individuals and specific groups to determine this achievement. This system, called “performance play, would distribute money through school principals.

Obama wants teachers to decide how much money should be distributed. Teacher unions across the country, however, are strongly against Obama’s plans for monetary incentives.

Obama plans to create a scholarship program for both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in education. The scholarships, which would cover two to four years of higher education costs, require the recipients’ consensus to teach wherever needed for the four following years.

A major part of Obama’s education plan is to improve the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Obama believes that the NCLB failed because of a general lack of funding along with poorly written standardized tests.

As president, Obama plans to discuss and rewrite the standardized tests with the governors of each state. Obama’s NCLB plan will help teachers focus on topics that need more attention.

McCain, who originally voted in favor of the NCLB in 2001, agrees that the law should be kept in place. He wants to offer tutoring services to students who do poorly on standardized tests. McCain would make changes to the NCLB only if students are still performing below expectations and education across the nation does not improve.

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