Time to Choose

It's that time again. Time to choose the person who will lead this country for the next four years.

But unlike past presidential elections, education is not at the top of the two major candidates' political agendas — it is overshadowed by such issues as the war in Iraq and against terrorism, jobs, energy policy, and resuscitating the nation's ailing economy (as well as incessant banter about military-service records from three decades ago that seems to repeatedly deflect attention from the more important issues).

Even so, federal spending on education has risen rapidly over the past few years (up about one-third since fiscal 2001). But program-funding priorities have shifted significantly over this time — illustrating some major differences between the two candidates on education policy and practice. Under the current administration, such programs as special education and Title I have seen funding boosts, while a number of programs championed by the previous administration have seen funding reduced or even eliminated (which was the fate of a $1.2 billion school construction initiative that attempted to address a national education facilities crisis that continues to escalate).

While education is receiving a muted focus during the national campaign, it continues to be a critical issue at the state and local level, challenging local communities and state lawmakers as they struggle with increasing education needs, rising enrollments, more costly mandates and a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure that continue to strap traditional funding sources.

In this month's cover story, American School & University visits with the two major presidential candidates to find out more about their education positions, what they consider their top priorities and goals, and the road they will take to accomplish them if elected. As with many of the candidates' positions, their education policies are as different as the candidates are themselves.

As the election approaches and the rhetoric reaches a fevered pitch, hopefully the education agendas proposed by Bush and Kerry will give you a more complete picture of each of the candidates — and the direction America's education goals will take over the next four years.



Federal on-budget funding for elementary and secondary education, fiscal year 2003.


Federal on-budget funding for post-secondary education, fiscal year 2003.

$368.5 BILLION

Expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools, 2001-02. Breakouts include: $226.6 billion for instruction, $126.6 billion for support services, and $15.3 billion for non-instruction.


Expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary schools, 2001-02. Breakouts include $4,755 for instruction, $2,657 for support services, and $322 for non-instruction.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics.

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