Monday, May 19, 2008

US News examines the issue of education and the campaign

They're like the kid in the back of the classroom with his hand raised, whom the teacher never gets to call on because the other students are shouting for attention. Education activists thought that the 2008 presidential campaign would be their opportunity to make progress on the multitude of troubles besieging the nation's schools: low test scores, high dropout rates, teen violence, skyrocketing college costs. Then along came the tumbling economy, climbing gas prices, continued problems in Iraq, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

So writes Dana Hawkins-Simons in US News and World Report about why education has not really taken off as an issue.

The magazine also gives a glimpse of the candidates' education advisers.

It also offers a capsule of each candidate's positions on education, including No Child Left Behind, teacher pay, and higher education affordability.

Monday, May 12, 2008

McCain, the NEA, and his Education Bench

At my publication, Education Week, we've been trying to get a complete list of John McCain's education advisers, but with little success. Leave it to the fine folks at Fordham to one-up us.Here, you can checkout the complete list they've obtained.

A few of the advisers are crossovers from Mitt Romney's camp, including former education department officials William D. Hansen and Eugene W. Hickok. And we've known that former Arizona state superintendent Lisa Graham Keegan was on the list. Also filling McCain's education bench is Williamson Evers, who has amassed a list of enemies who may have helped briefly stall his Senate confirmation last year to the U.S. Department of Education.

Officially missing from the list is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is likely taking on a more informal, though probably no less influential, advising role.

Also of interest in the blogsphere today is a post by union watchdog Mike Antonucci, who talks of how McCain polls unusually well with members of the National Education Association, whose endorsement is still outstanding. Antonucci notes that 41 percent of NEA members have a "positive opinion" of McCain. My question is: Does that translate into votes? There are a lot of folks out there who respect McCain's service to his country, and maybe even some of his stances on policy issues, but who may not vote for him come November.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

McCain and the Pledge: Judges Run Amok

Over at my Campaign K-12 blog, my colleague who covers the school legal beat at Education Week authored a post on John McCain's judicial philosophy. Specifically, Mark Walsh highlights McCain's use of a case involving the Pledge of Allegiance to illustrate that judges have "run amok."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Clinton Weighs in on Tumult in Student-Loan Industry

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last week unveiled a plan to ensure that students are not left without money for college as a result of the withdrawal over recent weeks of dozens of lenders from the guaranteed-student-loan program.

Her ideas, outlined in this news release, largely mirror action Congress is already taking or urging.

Here's a link to The Chronicle's Campaign U. blog item on Senator Clinton's plan.

You can clock her

I owe Alexander Russo again (the man is incredible about staying on top of every little story) for noting a Bloomberg piece on what the presidential candidates say on the trail, as opposed to what is reported in the news. You can read the piece, written by Kristin Jensen, here. She notes Clinton gets applause when denouncing No Child Left Behind -- the latest reauthorization of the Elementary And Secondary Education Act, which she supported as a member of the Senate education committee -- and usually devotes about a fifth of her 30-35 minute stump speeches to education. Jensen's story notes education took up 6 minutes of a recent speech.
We've heard much of it: she's for universal Pre-K. She's concerned about financial assistance for college students. We need better teachers in the classroom. But Jensen writes that Clinton also complains the feds don't provide enough funds for NCLB, not a new complaint by any means. And Clinton claims the law requires teachers to "teach to the test." No details or analysis about what that means, though, or explanations of how you gauge whether students have learned the info and skills in their state's math, reading and science standards (whether difficult, easy or dumbfounding).
If any of us has the chance to get in a few questions as this campaign continues its I'm-not-dead-yet psuh toward June, it would be good to dig under those sound bites and find out whether she's talking changes for the next reauthorization (and what those changes might be), or if she really wants to toss the law and come up with something completely new.
~ Cathy Grimes
Newport News Daily Press

McCain's Support for GI Bill Expansion Remains Elusive

John McCain has come under intense pressure from veterans groups to endorse legislation that would expand education benefits for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure has been gaining momentum in Congress and may be attached to a war spending measure that Congress is expected to take up soon.

As my colleague outlines on The Chronicle's Campaign U. blog this week, the lead sponsor of the legislation, Sen. James H. Webb Jr., a Virginia Democrat, has secured 58 co-sponsors for his bill, only two votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. But Senator McCain, a fellow Vietnam veteran, is not among them.

Senator Webb’s bill would cover up to the full cost of a four-year education at a public college, and supporters see Senator McCain’s backing as key to the bill’s prospects.

The senator, who often touts his military credentials on the campaign trail, has said he will co-sponsor a less costly Republican alternative instead. That bill, which has far fewer co-sponsors than Senator Webb’s bill, would provide a smaller initial benefit but raise the award after 12 years of service to encourage re-enlistment. The Defense Department has warned that providing too generous an educational benefit could harm retention rates.