- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Obama May Be the Best Candidate for Education

New America Media, Commentary, Donal Brown Posted: Oct 06, 2008

The ethnic communities of America should scale back their expectations on education. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama edges his Republican counterpart Senator John McCain in national education policy, but for different reasons neither may do much to improve American education in the next four years.

The biggest issues are the accessibility of quality schools and teachers, the achievement gap and the drop out rate. In an Oct. 1 statement for the New America Media, Education-Trust West said that the modern workplace requires all to be highly educated especially in math and science. They said a major obstacle to providing this education is the nation’s failure to provide low income students and students of color with their fair share of effective teachers.

Debra Watkins, director of the California Alliance of African American Educators, cannot endorse candidates or offer judgments about their positions, but says that one of the most crucial issues is the gap in test scores between white and Asian students and black and brown students.

Patricia Gandara of UCLA’s School of Education says Obama is more likely to be better for education, “…he ‘gets’ that drop out is a horrendous problem, that access to higher education for all kids is critical to a healthy nation and economy, and I think he understands that the greatest challenge of our time is to bring a high quality education to our most marginalized kids – English Learners, low-income, and minorities. I have not heard that focus from McCain.”

Obama’s most notable initiative is his 0-5 Plan to expand Head Start, an important step in the right direction of preparing all students for success. Students who enter their first year of school behind continue to perform below their peers. Much of the $19 billion Obama would spend in new education spending would go for early education. McCain offers no similar programs.

McCain does better on the issues of teacher quality. He wants to allocate five percent of Title II funding to states to recruit teachers from the top-performing 25 percent of their college class. He would provide bonuses to teachers who volunteer to teach in underperforming schools so long as those teachers’ students show improvement.

Obama, however, surpasses McCain in proposing a more comprehensive plan for recruiting, training and retaining teachers. He offers more detailed plans for attracting college graduates and mid-career recruits to the teaching profession and establishing teacher training programs to supply well-prepared teachers to underperforming schools. Like McCain, he favors increased pay to teachers, those who volunteer to work in inner cities and remote rural areas. Obama would make special effort to recruit math and science graduates to teaching.

Obama also goes beyond McCain in proposing other steps to reduce drop outs. He wants to double funding for after school programs. He supports intervention in middle schools to provide potential drop-outs with mentoring and intensive math and reading instruction.

To help create greater access to quality instruction, McCain is proposing a $250 million grant for states to put challenging math, science and computer science courses online and another $250 million for online tutoring.

Professor Gandara calls this last proposal “a sad mis-reading of the problem.”

She says, “The kids who need that [the tutoring] most have limited access to internet and a lack of supervision about how to use it, a low motivation to study on their own.” Good education is a social activity, says Gandara.

As for the problems of the children of immigrants, Professor Gandara says that Obama is the only candidate to address the problems of English language learners. She says Republicans are more comfortable with English-only approaches that hobble education for English language learners and their monolingual peers who speak only English.

Says Gandara, “Obama favors bilingual education, but I hope we see the day when we can concur that bilingual education for all our students is an asset we can easily provide, and our numerous English Learners can help contribute this resource to their schools.”

McCain builds his platform on education on vouchers. The idea appeals to many parents in the inner cities where the schools are run down and not providing rigorous, high quality instruction. But vouchers have not provided the lift expected. Not only have private schools failed to boost test scores but the presence of voucher schools has not improved the performance of
public schools.

The competitive model breaks down given the complexities of the problem. For one, there are not enough openings in private schools for all the students who want to leave their public schools. Nor would the schools be willing to accept students with disabilities and/or onerous learning issues. Most of the voucher programs do not provide the money necessary to buy the most successful private school education. Voucher programs haven’t been able to make a difference in Milwaukee or Washington, D.C.

McCain is not likely to do much to improve education by making vouchers the foundation for his educational plan. Obama knows that it takes more to improve student achievement and has superior plans to invest in early education, improve the quality of teachers, and provide mentoring and tutoring.

The problem with his approach is that the economy has been destroyed over the last eight years to the extent that we have trillions of dollars to pay in war costs, bailouts and Medicare and Social Security entitlements. Obama wants to tax the wealthy to pay the bills, but even so it may not be possible to raise enough money to pay those bills and to incur additional expenses on investments that will not pay off for several more years.

Still, Obama is more likely to push for economic policies that reduce the gap between the wealthy and working poor and the middle class. If he succeeds in doing this with tax policies, child care programs, and minimum wage laws, there would be less poverty and a school population better able to learn, an outcome beneficial to the ethnic communities and the entire country.

NAM Contributor Donal Brown taught in the public school system for 35 years.

Related Articles:

McCain or Obama? Indian Americans Debate

SCHOOL MATTERS: The Importance of Community Resources for Chinese and Korean Parents

Challenge to AB540 Threatens More Than Undocumented Students

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage


One Writer's Education

Aug 27, 2010