Thursday, September 4, 2008

Reaction to McCain's Speech

As seems to be typical in this presidential campaign, education got short shrift in John McCain's speech to the Republican National Convention this evening. Here's what he had to say:

Education -- education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice. Let's remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work. When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parent -- when it fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity. Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm president, they will.


The education portion of McCain's speech served up the same boring, rehashed Republicanism as the rest of his speech. Basically, it's all about choice and competition--and firing bad teachers. You always need an enemy. News to John McCain: The No Child Left Behind Act already has provisions for school choice. The trouble is that federal law doesn't allow children who attend failing schools in failing districts (where there aren't enough good schools to go around) to choose a school in a different district. For example, a Chicago Public Schools student can't choose to attend school in Evanston; a District of Columbia Public Schools student can't attend school in Montgomery County, Maryland or Arlington County, Virginia. And so on.

Unless McCain is willing to take a stand and allow largely urban, low-income students to storm the barracades of suburban schools (school districts where lots of wealthy Republicans live), then his hankering for more choice and competition in education ain't straight talk--just more empty rhetoric.

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