Barack Obama – Searching his Website for CHANGE: The Education Issue (Part 4 of 28)

Sen. Barack Obama receiving an honorary doctorate from Xavier University in New Orleans

Sen. Barack Obama receiving an honorary doctorate from Xavier University in New Orleans

The Education section of Barack Obama’s website begins with the quote, “I don’t want to send another generation of American children to failing schools. I don’t want that future for my daughters. I don’t want that future for your sons. I do not want that future for America.” Great way to start! I cannot imagine anyone wanting anything but the best in education for American children. I cannot imagine that a man with his financial resources would be sending his daughters to public schools, either. Now that we have the inarguable platitude out of the way, let’s see how Barack Obama plans to create this educational nirvana.

The Problem:

There are five main problems with our education system, according to Barack Obama. First, we are not getting the best teachers because we are not paying them enough. Second, our children are not learning the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and science, lagging far behind many other countries’ students. Third, far too many children are dropping out of school, particularly African-American and Latino children, compared to white children. Fourth, teacher retention rates are low. And fifth, the cost of a college education is too high and our tax and financial aid system is too complex for students to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for them.

The Solution:

Now, we’ll take a look at how Barack Obama plans on solving these five problems and, just as importantly, how he plans to have Americans pay for it. Believe it or not, I have eliminated some of the points that say nothing for brevity purposes and have tried to concentrate on those areas where Obama actually has a non-generic idea.

Early Childhood Education:

Here, Obama advocates quadrupling the size (and funding) of Early Head Start and increasing federal funding for Head Start as well as local community 0-5 programs. Additionally, Barack Obama says he will provide affordable high quality childcare to working families. [As usual, there is absolutely no mention made of where all of the additional money is going to come from for these programs, let alone specifics on how he will manage to provide low cost, quality childcare. The two concepts tend to be mutually exclusive. We have all learned that you get what you pay for in life.]

K-12:

Reform No Child Left Behind: While Barack Obama praises George W. Bush’s concept of No Child Left Behind, he criticizes the program for its emphasis on standardized tests and states that he will create a different set of individualized assessments that will show how prepared a child is for higher education and the workplace. He also believes that schools that are under-performing need to be better supported [funded?], rather than punished, as is the current system of No Child Left Behind. [I must admit, I don’t understand any of this. Standardized tests are criticized by Obama here in favor of a more individualized approach with a different set of standardized individual tests. Huh? I have no idea how the President of the United States is going to micromanage this while taking care of other slightly more pressing matters like National security. I also don’t know how things work in the backward world of education, but in the business world, we are rewarded for accomplishments and demoted or fired when we underachieve. If all schools are funded equally, what makes him think that throwing more money at a sinking ship is going to keep its passengers from drowning. Under-performing schools need to get rid of their under-performing teachers and administrators.]

Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Obama says he will recruit degreed math and science graduates to the educational field and make sure that all students have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels. [Most of the people I went to college with that graduated with degrees in math and science, did so to pursue careers in science or in the highly lucrative financial sector. Obama’s going to have to throw an awful lot of money at these people to get them to switch careers. What makes him think that these people want anything to do with children? I would think that the people who want to be around children (i.e. those with degrees in education) would be better candidates for teaching. One thing that I have observed, however, is that those that have been in the business world for a couple of decades tend to have a desire to pass on their knowledge. Perhaps these people would be better candidates for recruitment.]

Address the Dropout Crisis: Obama will “address the dropout crisis by passing his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school – strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.” [This doesn’t address the reasons that students drop out in the first place – reasons that include parental disinterest, drugs, pregnancy and social alienation. Encouraging parental involvement only helps with parents who want or have time to be involved. Intensive reading and math instruction as well as “extended learning time” will cause many of these dropouts to run, not walk away from school.]

Support English Language Learners: Obama supports “transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.” [This is one of my major bones of contention with the Democratic Party. They consistently advocate the segregation of foreign students, creating special bilingual classes for them. This becomes a crutch that impairs their ability to learn English and integrate into society as a whole. Of course, by maintaining this gap, there will always be a group whose rights they can fight for.]

Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America’s Teachers

Recruit Teachers: Obama says he will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location. Again, it’s the same old question – funding, funding, funding. Where is all of this money coming from? I wonder what is going to happen to all of the substandard teachers? I know … they can get jobs in the new, bigger federal government that will oversee all of these CHANGES!]

Prepare Teachers: Obama says he will require all schools of education to be accredited. He will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools. [Okay, for the sake of redundancy, we’ll pretend the Teacher Residency Programs and those in the federal government who will oversee it won’t cost a cent. I do question the paradox of a voluntary national assesment that will ensure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom. What if teachers don’t “volunteer” to submit to this test. How will Obama “ensure” that they can “teach effectively?”]

Retain Teachers: Obama plans to  expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. [This makes sense to me. The education process should be a team effort and, frankly, I thought this was already in place. Aren’t department heads paid for doing this already? I’m not sure if this addresses the issue at hand here, however. As long as we’re throwing money around, how about providing incentives to department heads for increasing retention rates or, better yet, pay reductions or demotions for subpar retention rates?]

Reward Teachers: Obama wants local school districts to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. He also wants districts to reward teachers who work in under served places like rural areas and inner cities and teachers who consistently excel in the classroom as well. [Bravo! This is how it works in the business world. Paying for performance is what makes capitalism work. Without incentives, we become a society of drones. Also, it is important to keep in mind that these are all things that Obama advocates local school districts doing and that it has nothing to do with the federal government. Hooray, no new taxes here! (except for the teachers who do too good of a job and wind up in the “rich” tax bracket, under Barack Obama’s plan.)]

Higher Education

Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama wants to create a universal and fully refundable credit (the “American Opportunity Tax Credit”) that will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds of the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior years’ tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due. [Holy crap! Talk about a whopper federal budget; the cost of this program alone has got to be astronomical. Because community colleges will be free, I can only assume that the teachers and administrators will be paid by the federal government. Is this what we really want? Even if we take the gargantuan leap of faith that the federal government could manage such a program, it gives the government the power over curriculum and could lead to the government controlling what information is disseminated to students. Teachers will become pro-government clones and all individuality of thought will be taken out of these progrms of higher learning. And, who are “most” students? Who will be excluded?]

Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid: Obama will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application. [How the heck does this “streamline” the financial aid process? It does simplify it for applicants but someone in the government surely has to do something after the box is checked. This sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. What if someone in the federal government misses the check box? It authorizes my tax information to be used by whom? What is the bureaucratic process after the box is checked?]

The burden of how well our education system does is always going to start with parents. Those parents that take an interest in their children’s education and who actively participate in the process will always have children who succeed academically. Those parents who do not value education or do not “have the time” to make sure that their children are doing all that they can in school will have children who do not value education and think it is a waste of time.

This is by far, the largest federal program that I have discussed in the Barack Obama Website Series. Ultimately, Barack Obama’s plan for education misses the boat because of his reluctance (or inability) to explain how he (we) will pay for it all. I shudder to think of what I will run into when I get to his plan for health care. But, let me not look too far ahead. Next up, the Obama plan for Energy & Development.

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7 Responses to Barack Obama – Searching his Website for CHANGE: The Education Issue (Part 4 of 28)

  1. The Eyes of America says:

    With Barrack and his followers and benefactors hate campaigning on America, and the industrialized world in general, with their agenda of terrorism and deceit, why is anyone not surprised by all of this? He is the enemy, and all of America is his intended target, and all of America knows it. We don’t want to be anyone’s target, Obama. You’ve done enough damage to America, and the world, already.

  2. How is this a “change” from the traditional allegiance of the Democratic Party to the wants and desires of the teachers unions at any and all costs?

  3. P. Cross says:

    Many years ago my wife at the time asked me, She was a k-8 principal with an ED.D., what I thought was the most important thing in a classroom to enable children to learn and what would it cost? Children have to be in a safe well disciplined consistent environment says I. Nothing I added. Just reasonable expectations and a system that will contribute to those expectations.

    How to accomplish this? 1. Make the parents responsible for their child’s education. 2. The means to pay for this is a voucher. A conditional voucher, that requires the parent to assure that their child will behave in the classroom/school grounds. The rules have to be clear unambiguous and non arbitrary.

    Once it has been determined that the parent/student is not complying, hand the voucher back to the parent and tell them they are still responsible for their child’s education and have a nice day.

    Of course then you will have deal with the aclu and the various cps’s.

    Failing this, private schools or home schooling.

  4. I am not going to sit here and tell you whom to vote for, my friend, but if you step back a moment and look at what lies before you, you will see the choices are not black and white (no pun intended). While you may not agree with the progressive politics of Senator Obama, the fact is that the other choice leaves a lot to be desired from even a Republican standpoint. First, McCain has switched his party affiliation both officially and in spirit so many times in the last decade or so that it seems abundantly clear that he will say or do anything to win. Recall, he was a Republican working with Senator Feingold to pass Campaign Finance laws, then he became an Independent. Then he was considered for potentially being the VP candidate for John Kerry, the Democratic Nominee at the time. Following that, he realized he could not win as an Independent, so he suddenly became “the Reagan conservative” he has always been (according to himself, not history). Calling anyone a flip-flop artist would be the best way to cover up the fact that he is perhaps one of the biggest on issues, party affiliation, and even his personal relationships. I am not one to criticize or stand for criticism of candidates’ spouses, but McCain left a wife that waited for him for five years while he was in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. It only took him weeks to find a younger, richer wife who had political aspirations but needed a mouthpiece. His personal loyalties are slim. Again, this is not about Obama. I am not suggesting you vote for him. I just want everyone to be clear about the man from Arizona. At least with Bush, you know what you are getting. With McCain, a new lie is born daily. Take for example the lobbyists. He did not sleep with the young blonde lobbyist, yet he employed over 40 of them on his staff. Perhaps, he should not call into question the judgement of Senator Obama. Clearly, his is all over the place. I will remind those who know me and those who do not that I am a former Capitol Hill staffer, in a Republican office. I was there from 1999-2001 in the midst of a lot of crazy political times including GW Bush’s first election and the beginning of the “independent” phenomenon McCain started in that time. The average person does not take advantage of the resources our tax payers dollars pay for. If you call up the Senate, you can request copies of voting records. I highly recommend you do so for Mr. McCain, as just telling the press and town hall meetings attendees that his record speaks for itself is simply not enough. You would think as our economy goes into a depression, our education is not even in the Top Ten in the world, and our healthcare system is on the fritz, that McCain would be open to exploring ways to cut spending, like the biggest expense: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That does not mean end it necessarily, but it does mean straying away from the Bush direction, which McCain has not done at all and refuses to do. I would bet he has a percentage of Blackwater, not unlike the rest of that establishment.

  5. scottymck says:

    All excellent points, xperienced skeptic!

    McCain was, by far, my least favorite of the potential Republican nominees. He is so undesirable, that both myself and my wife were going to vote for Hillary Clinton over McCain if she had won her Party’s nomination (neither of us has ever voted for a Democrat for any political position).

    Unfortunately, the Democratic Party went with hype over experience. As far as my own life is concerned, McCain is the lesser of two evils in this Presidential contest (albeit, not by much).

    The education system is not to blame so much as the parents are of those that fail in the system. Far too many of them think that it is the public school system’s responsibility to ensure that their children learn what is being taught. If my parents hadn’t stayed on me and made me study, I too, would be reading and writing at the abysmal level that so much of America seems to be at. Fortunately, my parents sat with me every night after dinner and taught me to read and write before I even attended kindergarten.

    It is far too easy to point the finger at others for our own mistakes. I am not aware of any situation where students are not receiving text books. Even if the teachers are not world class, all the answers to academic success lie within those pages.

    Thanks for your comments, however. I wish everyone would offer their opinions in such a well thought out manner and without the animosity typically offered when an opposing view is presented.

  6. scottymck says:

    Eyes of America, quite a conspiracy complex you’ve got going there. Put down the Ludlum and Clancy and everything will be alright!

    totaltranformation, of course it is not a change. My post Barack Obama – The Same Old Ideas In A New Package addresses that very point.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, one and all!

    P. Cross, I must agree with your two step plan. It all starts at home. I think you would find that in the majority of situations where a child is failing in school, you will see a home that is failing the child as well.

  7. scottymck says:

    xperiencedskeptic,

    Whoa, I just realized you almost slid one by me! Your sentence, which begins, “You would think as our economy slides into a depression” is highly innaccurate.

    A Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of a decline in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since we have not even had one quarter of decline in the GDP in the last eight years, one cannot say, by definition, that we are in a Recession.

    The most commonly acceptable definition of a Depression is when the GDP declines by more than 10%. Obviously if there has not been a single quarter of decline, there certainly has not been a 10% decline.

    Perhaps you meant to use the phrase, “period of slow economic growth.”

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