NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 9, 2008

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

No Child Left Behind:

  • Obama endorses the law's goals of raising academic standards, holding schools accountable for educating all children and putting a good teacher in every classroom, but he would use more measures than just standardized tests to gauge academic success.
  • He would pour $8 billion in additional annual funding into the law, mostly for teacher quality initiatives; he would add after-school, drop-out prevention, and college readiness and summer programs to help poor and minority students.
  • He calls on parents to do their part.

School choice:

  • Obama supports allowing students in failing schools to transfer to magnet or public charter schools.
  • He opposes vouchers for private and religious schools.

Teacher quality:

  • Obama supports merit pay for successful teachers based on a range of factors, including test scores.
  • He backs incentive pay for teachers in disadvantaged schools, for those who teach hard-to-staff subjects like math and science and for those who mentor novice teachers - as long as differential pay plans are developed cooperatively by local school districts and teachers.

Early childhood education:

  • Obama would spend an additional $10 billion a year on Early Head Start, Head Start and block grants to cover child care for low-income families.
  • His plan for educating children from birth to age five features matching grants for states to adopt or expand early child care and early-education programs and to offer voluntary universal preschool.

College access and affordability:

  • Obama would offer students willing to perform at least 100 hours of community service an annual $4,000 refundable tax credit to help pay for college.
  • He would simplify the financial aid application process and eliminate subsidies for banks that provide federally back student loans and redirect the money to federally administered loans and Pell Grants.

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


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