NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 9, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama differ on education?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of McCain's positions on education.

No Child Left Behind:

  • McCain calls the law "a good beginning" and believes that it is adequately funded, although he would funnel more of the money directly to school principals and tutoring services, bypassing state and local officials.
  • He would also focus existing federal education dollars on expanded tutoring and school-choice programs for children in low-performing schools, alternative ways to recruit and certify teachers and online education.
  • He wants to change the way schools test special-education students and those learning English, and backs tests that measure students' academic progress over time.
  • He has not rejected No Child's annual reading and math testing requirement or the law's tough consequences for schools in which children continue to struggle.

School choice:

  • McCain promises "school choice for all who want it" and champions charter schools and private-school vouchers, but his plan is limited to expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to provide vouchers to nearly 3,000 poor students in underperforming District of Columbia schools.
  • He has long favored allowing states to operate their own voucher initiatives but opposes the creation of a federal program.

Teacher quality:

  • McCain advocates merit pay for teachers based primarily on raising students' test scores and bonuses for those who work in underprivileged schools; wants to open the profession to would-be teachers from other fields.
  • He would redirect funds from other NCLB teacher programs and send the money to schools to focus on enhancing teachers' instructional strategies and ability to meet students' academic needs.

Source: "McCain on Education," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


Browse more articles on Education Issues