Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Unions thinking about Hillary?

From our man in Dayton, Mr. Elliott, a heads up for those who report in communities with strong teachers unions. A New York Times story today (July 31) about candidates and unions reports that the American Federation of Teachers seems to be leaning in Clinton's direction.
On July 26 Clinton was endorsed by former NEA New Hampshire president Karen McDonough.
Here's the link to the NYT story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/us/politics/31unions.html
Thanks, Scott!

Numbers: Education ranks 5th for Obama

The New York Times today looks back at Barack Obama's work in the Illinois legislature and ranks more than 800 bills he sponsored by category. Based on the 62 education bills he sponsored, education could be viewed as fifth priority in his legislative work, coming in behind health care (233 bills), poverty (125), crime (122) and economic issues (97). Unfortunately, there's not a breakdown of the nature of the education bills Obama sponsored in Illinois.

A link on Hillary and education and a short intro

I neglected to follow the lead of my fellow bloggers and introduce myself. I'm Cathy Grimes, education editor and writer for The Daily Press of Newport News, VA. I'm following Hillary Clinton for our blog.
The On the Issues Web site has a page for Hillary's position on a variety of ed issues, pulling information from debates, speeches, articles and other sources. Here's the link:

Hillary on Preschool and Public Service

Hillary Clinton touted familiar themes during campaign stops last week in South Carolina. The prime sponsor for the proposed Ready to Learn Act (Senate Bill 1823, introduced July 19) that proposes offering federal grants for voluntary all-day preschool programs, she folded the message into her speeches. Her legislation calls for grants to provide a 50 percent match to states in support of free voluntary preKindergarten programs for 4-year-olds. She's jumping on a familiar bandwagon. Other presidential candidates also support the idea, as do state leaders like Virginia's Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. But opponents voice concerns that this is a push in the direction of making Pre-K mandatory and would divert ed funds from other programs. Investor's Business Daily carried a critique on July 20 titled "Clinton's Hostile Preschool Takeover," by Darcy Olsen and Bruce Fuller. Keep an ear open for more criticism, and more support, as this snowball builds in size and velocity.

Clinton also spoke of her proposed U.S. Public Service Academy, a riff on the military acads, but focused on government civil service. She introduced legislation in March to launch the academy, which would rely on the federal government for 80 percent of its funding. Students would compete for admission and would have their tuition fully paid. In return, they would agree to at least five years of service in the public sector. The proposal has drawn criticism from college administrators and instructors, who note that several colleges and universities already have programs focused on public service. They worry that the academy will draw away resources from those programs and suggest the federal money proposed for the academy could be better spent buttressing existing programs. Those of us covering colleges and universities with such programs can check in on them and find out what this may mean. So far, the legislation is in committee.

Clinton, who like Obama is a member of the Senate Ed committee, has been saying NCLB needs fixing, but has not yet offered many concrete suggestions for improvement. She did introduce amending legislation July 18 to strengthen NCLB's mentoring component, calling for better funding and stronger language supporting mentorship, particularly for academically at-risk students.

To bring us all up to speed on what she's been proposing in Congress, here's a short list of bills:
S837, a bill to develop school leaders who can both effectively close the achievement gap and raise achievement for all students.
S1185, a bill to provide grants to states to raise grad rates
S1332, a bill amending the Public Service Health Act to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs.
S301, a bill to provide assistance to nontraditional students in higher ed.
S511, a bill to give student borrowers basic rights.
S757, a bill promoting voluntary K-12 national standards for math and science.
Thus far, everything is sitting in committees.

Sen. Thompson on campus firearms

Based on past positions, Sen. Fred Thompson can be expected to reveal education positions friendly to vouchers and unfriendly to any increased federal role in education. But in the early days of his still-undeclared exploration of a bid for the Presidency, Thompson is making news about guns-on-campus. In an April National Review Online piece he chastises universities such as Virginia Tech that forbid weapons on campus. The Virgnia Tech killer able to reload so many times, suggests Thompson, because no students in that hall were carrying weapons.

"Whenever I've seen one of those "Gun-free Zone" signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago."

While Thompson's National Review piece appeared to draw little attention at first, there's some evidence emerging that his gun comments have legs. Here, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen opines on Thompson and campus firepower.

Richard Whitmire

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gingrich takes on Detroit

Blogging on the undeclared candidates has its rewards. Might-be candidates such as New York Mayor Bloomberg or former House Speaker Gingrich feel more comfortable unleashing exactly what's on their minds. Here, Gingrich picks on Detroit Public Schools, reeling out the grim statistics (which are denied by the district) and proposing to replace the entire district with a series of" experiments."

...Richard Whitmire

Obama light on policy in speech to College Democrats

(Obama with College Democrats in South Carolina last week)

Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to speak last week at the national convention of the College Democrats, oddly held in conservative South Carolina. (Video of the speech can be found here.) He was followed later in the week by other Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Media reports indicate Obama was a big hit with the young crowd. He mostly sought to inspire the young Democrats to action and public service, and it seemed the speech was fairly light on education policies that might benefit college students.

Obama did tout universal health care, saying he'd like to see all young people given the option to stay on their parents' health plans until age 25. He also decried the cost of college, noting that he and his wife, Michelle, paid student loans that were more than the cost of their mortgage for the first eight years of their marriage. But none of the media reports included any concrete proposals from Obama's speech to contain college costs or student loans.

Find coverage of his speech at The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., at The Chicago Sun-Times, the Spartansburg, S.C., Herald-Journal and from the Savannah, Ga., Morning News.

His success at the convention also inspired a long Chicago Tribune story on Obama's strong appeal to young voters.

For archives of my blog posts on Obama, click the link with his name down the right side of this page, or go to Get on the Bus, my education blog at the Dayton Daily News.

(Image credit: The State)

On the trail with McCain

John McCain does not identify education as a top issue on his web site (www.johnmccain.com) but he has made comments on the campaign trail.

The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer reported July 26 that, during a stop in New Hampshire, McCain disagreed with a teacher who said the federal No Child left Behind Act's focus on assessment takes away from instructional time. McCain said NCLB was not perfect, but it was "a good beginning," because it allows comparisons from school to school and state to state. The Reformer also said McCain expressed support for vouchers and charter schools and emphasized the need for better training in math and science.

In a July 23 appearance before the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan, McCain acknowledged the role of education in helping displaced workers adapt to a changing global economy. "We can strengthen community colleges and technical training, and give displaced workers more choices to find their way back to productive and prosperous lives," he said.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bloomberg begins his prodding

First, a quick introduction. I'm Richard Whitmire, an editorial writer at USA Today and president of the Education Writers Assn. I'm going to try to keep track of the not-yet-declared candidates, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may never declare. Actually, that's what makes him the most interesting of the bunch, especially on education issues.
From my perspective, Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joe Klein are carrying out some of the most unique education reforms in the nation. Recently, Andy Rotherham (of Eduwonk and Education Sector fame) and I wrote a piece for Politico laying out what we saw as a compelling education platform for candidates of either party and invited the candidates to "steal" our agenda. Copying the New York reforms was high on our list.http://www.educationsector.org/analysis/analysis_show.htm?doc_id=478655
As a result, I expect to see Bloomberg use his "possible" independent candidacy as a prod to force candidates of both parties to move off their scripted lines and deal with real issues, especially education. Actually, that started already when he spoke July 25 before the National Urban League. http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2007/07/25/bloomberg_supports_teacher_merit_pay/?rss_id=Boston.com+%2F+News+%2F+Education
There, Bloomberg pushed hard on merit pay for teachers, an issue Sen. Obama raised recently, but only in a muffled sort of way. Muffled speech is not Bloomberg's style. Expect more of this.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Obama and sex education

(Barack Obama with his then 6-year-old daughter Malia after his election to the Senate in 2004)

Hello. Just a quick introduction first -- I am Scott Elliott, the education reporter at the Dayton Daily News in Ohio and I'll be tracking Barack Obama as part of this project, both here and on my education blog, Get on the Bus. I would be grateful for any help readers could provide. If you see news anywhere about Obama and his education positions, please alert me via e-mail at selliott@daytondailynews.com.

To prepare for this assignment, I've just begun reading Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, but I also noticed a little dust up last week, thanks to education blogger Alexander Russo, which had people asking is Barack Obama really in favor of sex education for kindergarteners?

It looks like the answer is yes, and no, depending on your definition of sex education.

Apparently, Obama supported a bill in the Illinois legislature that called for "age appropriate" sex education to be taught, even to kids as young as kindergarten. But what, exactly, is Obama advocating?

Not much, Obama says. He told a newspaper in 2004 that what he really intended was that kids be given accurate information. In his example, you don't tell a kid who asks "where do babies come from" that they are delivered by a stork. What exactly do you tell the kid who asks that question? That, he said, should be decided case-by-case at the local school board level.

Still it seems Obama has staked out a position that tilts toward "comprehensive" sex education and away from "abstinence only" programs favored by the Bush administration, which places a heavy emphasis on the virtue of abstaining entirely from sex until marriage and leaves out some of the detailed information in comprehensive programs.

(Image credit: AP)

Back in May, NCLB Topic of another Debate

EWA has only recently started its education coverage blog. So we paid attention to the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate, which had a lot of interesting entries on education.
However, it would only be fair to point out that No Child Left Behind was the subject of discussion at another debate in South Carolina: This one the Republican debate in May.

During that debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney admitted his views about the federal law have changed since he originally ran for senate in 1994, according to the Ed Week report about the debate. He once wanted to eliminate the US Department of Education altogether.

Another Republican candidate, Ron Paul, still thinks the feds should be out of the education business. But Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee defended NCLB in a later video, the article said.

Watching Edwards

I am one of the EWA members who have agreed to post regularly on particular presidential candidates and their views on education. I asked to be assigned John Edwards, and was happy the EWA blog junta agreed to my request, because in past elections he has been among the more daring in his recommendations for reform. There is nothing wrong, of course, with the standard NEA-driven mantra for Democratic candidates, but I like some raisins and bananas in my oatmeal, so always applaud the officer seeker who occasionally free styles.
What distinguished Edwards in the past were his detailed recommendations for raising the level of high school instruction, including more Advanced Placement courses. His Web site says that strengthening high schools is still a priority, which is good.
But this year he has been getting most of the attention, when he speaks about education, for his suggestion that we work harder to bring his two Americas, rich and poor, together in our public schools. He has been talking about integrating schools by social class, something the law and the courts still allow us to do, even though it is likely to be very difficult. He is quoting the work of Century Foundation senior fellow Rick Kahlenberg, the most interesting and energetic advocate of this approach. Edwards knows the data---low income kids do better academically in high-income schools. He has so far NOT given into the annoying despair of some people who take this line to the extreme, saying low-income children are doomed to low achievement until we have a social revolution and open up public housing for them and their families in Scarsdale, Winnetka, Bethesda, Hillsborough and other neighborhoods they can't afford.
So I think he is the man to watch on education issues, the most likely to say something interesting, although Obama and Clinton are also hinting at some risk-taking. I watched all of the CNN debate, and it did not appear that Edwards was given a chance to say much about schools. Maybe it was just as well. Richardson and Biden, both of whom I admire for many reasons, did not seem to have a firm grasp of No Child Left Behind. Richardson, maybe the brightest man in the group, uttered one factual inaccuracy after another. They have to play for votes from otherwise inattentive people at those TV forums, and I always find they are much more savvy and connected to reality when you read their Web sites.
If there are other Edwards watchers out there, let me know what you think of his education stands, and stick it to me if you think I have missed something, or said something even more idiotic than usual. I am always reachable at mathewsj@washpost.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The public wants to know about education

The two-hour Democratic presidential debate last night didn't include the depth of questions posted to YouTube. It's a shame because obviously, the public wants to know the candidates' stands on education.

The first education question posed was a lighter one: who is your favorite teacher?

The next one asked the candidates about their position on No Child Left Behind, complete with musical score.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he would scrap it. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said he thought the law was fundamentally flawed. Unfortunately, none of the other candidates were asked about the law and neither of the two leading candidates, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama addressed it. Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, however, returned to the question later and said the law needs to be improved, not scrapped. "You measure growth in a child. You invest in failing schools. But I would not scrap it entirely. Accountability is very important in this country. We ought not to abandon that idea," he said.

The next questioner asked the candidates whether they sent their children to public or private school. Sen. Hillary Clinton pointed out that while Chelsea attended private school in Washington, D.C., she attended public ones in Arkansas.

Finally the candidates were asked about sex education and how early it should begin, perhaps because of the controversy over Illinois Senator Barack Obama's stance that sex education should begin early. Obama noted that it was important for children to learn that people should not touch them inappropriately.

Despite the number of submissions dealing with college affordability (see previous post), the subject was not raised at all. So even though education is on the public's mind, it doesn't seem to be on the minds of CNN officials screening the questions and very little pressure was put on the top Democratic candidates to address a key issue during the debate.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CNN YouTube Debate Tonight

In South Carolina tonight, the Democratic candidates for president will respond to questions posted by citizens on YouTube and according to CNN's special about the debate on Sunday, many of those questions were about education. (The transcript for the show is not yet available).
For instance, Diana Vickers of New Orleans asked about performance pay for teachers. One question highlighted on the CNN show was one by a college student about college cost. A controversial question for Barack Obama pointedly asks him about his own drug use in college and whether people convicted of using drugs should be denied financial aid.
According to this story in Education Week, a group of South Carolina honor students taped questions about education, including the candidates' education policies.