Once a cornerstone of presidential campaigns, education finds itself at the back of the class in this year's election, as the economy, foreign policy, energy and other issues dominate the discussion.
But even though education currently is not sharing the spotlight, there is little doubt of its importance to voters and the nation as a whole. In this month's cover story, American School & University examines the candidates' platforms and plans for improving education in America (see p. 18).
In reviewing the candidates' education platforms, substantive details are lacking. Sen. McCain offers few specific proposals, focusing more on philosophical statements; Sen. Obama proposes a number of programs, offering specific details on some. Among the proposals: Sen. McCain wants more school choice; Sen. Obama proposes doubling federal aid to charter schools. Of course, the fate of No Child Left Behind looms on the horizon for whoever the next president is, as general dissatisfaction with the program in its present form leaves its future in jeopardy.
In regard to facilities funding, not much is being proposed by either candidate. As part of Sen. Obama's Emergency Economic Plan, $25 billion would be available in a Jobs and Growth Fund to, among other things, fund new “fast-tracked” projects to repair schools. No mention of education facilities appears in Sen. McCain's proposals. The focus on education facilities as part of national debate historically has been a partisan issue; Democrats stress the need to provide federal funding to construct and repair school facilities, while Republicans maintain facilities are a state and local issue.
As we approach the final days prior to what promises to be an historic election, education proponents will have to remain patient as other issues are addressed over the near term. However, education is a priority for most Americans, and it won't be long before it regains its prominence as a key focus of national dialogue.