Sep 182008
Authors: Alex Stephens

Often, it requires a bit of digging to discover where the presidential candidates stand on issues and what their policies are toward them.

To preface the debates, and to save you some time, I’ve done the homework on their plans for education reform.

What McCain and Obama have in common is small: both plans deal performance pay for teachers and recognize the No Child Left Behind Act failed.

How they differ is much more interesting.

To supplement poor performing schools, McCain plans to make it easier for their students to receive private company tutoring.

Currently the process of receiving said tutoring is costly and convoluted; rarely are the parents able to navigate their way through the application process.

McCain will certify and fund certain tutoring companies and allow them to market directly to the parents, instead of through the school.

McCain would reallocate around half of the government’s current teaching quality budget, $3 billion, to bonuses for teachers who choose to work at low-performance schools, if they are able to raise test scores.

He would also provide for a voucher program that allows parents to take their children out of bad schools and put them into good ones.

That sums up the McCain plan pretty well. It may seem short, and it is.

His campaign has not put much emphasis on education. His Web site focuses primarily on parents moving their children to better schools, which is impractical and doesn’t fix the problem.

There are other major shortcomings with his plan.

Even though tutoring may become more accessible to some parents, the very poor still won’t be able to afford after school help or be able to ferry their kids to a center that provides it.

Offering good teachers more money doesn’t fix anything either.

More good teachers would make a difference.

Obama’s plan draws directly from his own experience improving the Chicago school system since the 1980s.

At the time, Chicago had some of the lowest scoring school districts in the nation. While still not the best, since then Chicago schools have seen some of the highest improvement nationwide. How?

Much of the solution is simple economics.

The problem with schooling needs to be fixed at early levels, K-5, where for every dollar spent there, between $7 and $10 less is needed for remedial education later on.

Obama’s education reform will pour more resources into this age group than any plan before it.

An essential aspect of his plan, which will make it successful, is to hire around 30,000 new, high quality teachers per year.

Teachers don’t grow from trees; they are taught in colleges.

High college tuitions prevent many students from receiving quality education to become teachers themselves.

Obama will create Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover tuition costs — all public university students would receive $4,000 worth of tuition, too — as well as provide services, which ensure new teachers are accredited and superior at what they do.

Low performance teachers at problem schools will be replaced by newer, motivated teachers that will make sure their students succeed.

Not only have both national teacher’s unions endorsed Obama’s plan, it has also been proven to work in previously failing schools.

Obama gets right to the source of the problem and fixes it, no Band-Aids, unlike McCain whose private tutoring companies stand to make profit from government funding while only helping a small portion of struggling children.

Seem costly?

Obama’s plan would require a few billion more dollars towards education per year, which is almost nothing compared to the $462 billion awarded to the defense industry in 2007.

I think we can spare a few missiles to better our youth.

Imagine yourself a parent: Which plan makes more sense?

Having your children taught by better teachers, or getting off work every day only to drive them out for hours of additional tutoring?

The choice should be easy.

Alex Stephens is a junior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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