Thursday, November 29, 2007

Republican YouTube Debate didn't feature education

The issue of education only came up indirectly during the YouTube Republican Debate. One person asked Mike Huckabee about his effort to allow illegal immigrants who went through the school system to qualify for merit scholarships. The questioner wanted to know whether the children of Iraq War veterans should get the same break.

Mitt Romney seized the opportunity to disparage Huckabee's support of the bill (which died in the Arkansas legislature).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Obama's big education plan is out

(Obama at a New Hampshire high school.)

I suppose you could say he is shooting for the moon.

In a speech earlier this week, Barack Obama laid out an $18 billion education plan that he has been hinting about for weeks.

And delaying NASA's return to the moon is one way he hopes to raise the money to pay for his proposals.

There is a "mend it, don't end it" theme to the plan, which calls for keeping the required testing of No Child Left Behind but wants to find "more accurate" ways to assess students that don't depend entirely on standardized tests.

On teacher pay, he favors expirimenting with merit pay and "hazard pay" or paying teachers extra for taking on more challenging assignments. These are ideas that the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, opposes. But NEA president Reg Weaver is quoted in a USA Today story saying Obama's plan did not alarm him.

Obama also proposes expanded federal aid for early childhood programs and money to support longer school days for schools that want to try that approach.

To pay for the plan, Obama wants to close a tax loophole on CEO pay and delay NASA missions to the moon and to Mars. He argues that we won't have the engineers and scientists to make those missions go some day if we don't invest the money in education now.

If you follow the USA Today story link above, you can download Obama's speech on education.

The post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Romney Brings a Businessman's Perspective to Higher Education

After being elected governor of Massachusetts, one of Mitt Romney’s first acts was to propose far-reaching changes in the state’s public-college system.

Mr. Romney’s audacious overhaul failed, felled by opposition from a Democratic legislature and public colleges themselves. But political observers say his effort offers insight into the Republican presidential hopeful’s leadership style as well as the way in which he uses data to drive policy decisions.

In the fifth of The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading presidential candidates, we look at how Mr. Romney’s four years as governor may offer important clues about how he might tackle higher-education issues if elected president.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Obama: Give kids the chance I had

(Obama and Clinton at last week's debate)

Barack Obama last week unveiled a new campaign ad in New Hampshire focused on education in which he touts early childhood education and says he wants to recruit new teachers.

Obama recalls his own childhood and says all children deserve the chances he had to get a good education.

It's an interesting ad in that it comes from someone who greatly benefitted from the American educational meritocracy and who is clearly bought into the idea that education can lift people from poverty to opportunity through hard work and ingenuity.

Can it work on a wide scale, not just for a select few? He seems to say it can, if we start early enough and have the right people at the front of the classroom.

(Image credit: AP)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Democratic Education Debate

Democratic candidates were asked only one direct question about education at Thursday night's debate.
Bill Richardson, who told the crowd he wanted to be the "education president," was one of four candidates asked if they supported merit pay for teachers.
Despite the chance to tell voters how he feels about the subject, one that is at the heart of education debates across the country, Richardson instead fell back on his worn-out and, depending on your point of view (see Jay Mathews' comments on a previous blog), not-so highly acclaimed ed platform.
He repeated his plan to pay teachers a minimum $40,000, start math and science academies, have universal preschool and exchange college tuition for national service. He also stuck with the one thing that really sets him apart from other candidates, getting rid of NCLB. But he failed to say anything about merit pay, too bad.
To find out what else Richardson and other candidates had to say, you can see the entire video at the NY Times Web site, along with a cool transcript analyzer that allows you to search for specific topics or key words.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Education Platforms

We've added many of the presidential candidates' positions on education to our righthand column under Education Platform. Some candidates have full-fledged education issues pages while others have only brief mentions of education and still others don't have an "education" issues page, but a "youth" page.

We didn't include a link to John McCain, because I couldn't find education among his issues. If anyone could offer one, I'd welcome a link.

Obama: A Favorite of Academe Who Once Led Harvard Through a Racial Storm

One of the early tests of Barack Obama’s political skills came when he was a law student at Harvard University in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the midst of intense campus debates over faculty diversity and other divisive issues, Mr. Obama became the first black student to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. At the law journal, he presided over difficult discussions among intellectuals with widely different views. Yet his professors say he was able to set an amicable tone and, at the same time, hold fast to his own beliefs.

In the fourth of The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading candidates for president, we take a look at how Mr. Obama has won the favor of many in academe and the kind of “professorial president” he might make if he were elected.

On our Campaign U. blog we have also published the full transcript of a Q&A we conducted via email with Mr. Obama's campaign. In it, he discusses his views and positions on various higher-education topics, including affirmative action, the federal government's role in reining in college costs, and the importance of education in preparing working families for a global economy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuition Breaks for Children of Illegal Immigrants

The issue of immigration has been particularly divisive within the Republican Party and, today, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, criticized his GOP opponents for backing tuition assistance for children of illegal immigrants. Usually, what this means is states give students whose parents are illegal immigrants the lower-tuition, in-state status if they meet all other residency and academic requirements. (I blogged about this, too, on my EdWeek blog, Campaign K-12).

Specifically, Romney targeted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for supporting 2005 legislation in Arkansas that would have granted in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for supporting a similar policy at City University.

Huckabee has openly defended his support of such measures. Last month, he said on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour:

"You don't punish the child for the parents having broken the law. We don't do that. We don't say, 'OK, your parents broke a law, so we're going to punish you for it.' I just don`t understand why anybody would think that that's a good thing to do."

Policymakers and judges have been wrestling with this for years, which reminds me of the important 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler vs. Doe. In that case, the justices ruled that no, it wasn't a very good thing for Texas in the mid-1970s to deny a free public education to children of illegal immigrants.

The majority (it was a 5-4 vote) decision states that the state shouldn't have "impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control."

Though this is a different situation -- and college aid isn't guaranteed by any state's Constitution -- the fundamental issues are very similar, even decades later.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Report highlights need for preschool access

A new report by The National Institute for Early Education Research likely gives Sen. Hillary Clinton added fuel for her universal preschool initiative. The report notes that minority children, and those from “low-income, poorly educated families” in the West and Midwest, have the least access to quality preschool programs.
Governors across the nation -- including my own state, Virginia -- are trotting out preschool expansion proposals. Presidential candidates are on the preschool bandwagon as well. Clinton is on record with a detailed proposal to provide universal access to preschool, which would reach students highlighted in the NIEER report. To check out the report, visit NIEER here.
~ Cathy

Obama's Plan for Working Families

Barack Obama unveiled a plan yesterday that he pitched as a blueprint for how to help working families “reclaim the American Dream,” including by expanding access to college and better tailoring community-college programs to improve local economies.

Among his proposals, the Democratic senator from Illinois advocated a new tax credit of up to $4,000 per year for college tuition and fees that would be refundable, meaning that people whose income is so low that they do not owe taxes would still be able to benefit.

Mr. Obama said the $4,000 amount is equivalent to two-thirds of the cost of tuition at the average public college in the United States.

The senator also proposed to simplify the process of applying for federal financial aid by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, known as Fafsa, and using tax data to determine eligibility instead.

On another front, Mr. Obama said he wanted to help tap the “tremendous resource” of community colleges. He proposed creating a Community College Partnership Program that would help institutions determine what technical and other skills they need to teach their students to help prepare them to work in local industries and to decide in which emerging fields the colleges should begin to offer new programs. The program also would reward colleges that increase their numbers of graduates.

For more news on higher education and the 2008 election, you can also visit The Chronicle's Campaign U. blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Romney's "Excellence in Education" Agenda

On the same day we learned that voters in Utah decisively shot down the nation's first universal private-school voucher program, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney—who has significant ties to the state—reiterated today that he will promote school choice as part of his education agenda.

So where was Romney during the voucher fight in Utah? He pretty much kept quiet, despite pleas from voucher advocates to lend his political capital to the fight.

Yet school choice has a prominent role in his education agenda, which he discussed today in South Carolina, along with other hot-button issues, such as merit-pay for teachers and changing the No Child Left Behind act to focus more on individual student progress rather than school progress.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Next Education President?

My colleague here at Education Week, David Hoff, spearheaded an Election '08 package that debuted this week with a story that gives a comprehensive overview of all of the major presidential candidates and their education platforms. You can read his piece here, check out candidate profiles here, and also peruse our Campaign K-12 blog here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Obama's a sucker for a reporter in tears

Imagine this -- a presidential candidate who says no questions from the media but then relents just because one of the reporters starts to cry?

That's what happened to Barack Obama in Durham, N.C., Thursday. Of course, the reporter was 5-year-old Hadassah Jones, who was trying to ask him questions on behalf of the Web site In the interview, Obama talked up health care and said every child should have a "nice school." (See the resulting video news story here.)

The rest of the media coverage of Obama lately was a bit more grown up.

In New Hampshire, The Citizen newspaper reports five people with education backgrounds in the state have signed on to advise Obama.

Meanwhile, Obama is on a civil rights kick on the campaign trail.

On Friday, his choice of speaking venue harkened to the early days of the school integration fight. Here's what he said on the court house steps in South Carolina:

"Imagine a President who was raised like I was by a single mom who had to work and go to school and raise her kids and accept food stamps for a while. Imagine a President who could go into Holly Courts Apartments here in Manning or Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton,(S.C.) and give the young men and women there someone to look up to. Imagine a President who fought each day to narrow the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be."

He stuck with the civil rights theme throughout the day, and the New York Times reports some of his family tree humor along with a few light touches on education.

This post also appears on my education blog,Get on the Bus
(Image credit: Boston Globe)