Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush both promise to make education one of their top priorities as president. How do their proposals differ? Today, Education World news editor Diane Weaver Dunne sums up the candidates' education platforms!
Education is one of the hottest political topics this presidential election year. The issue tops most voter polls and is rated more important than health care and Social Security issues. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore both promise to make education one of their top priorities as president.
Education World contacted the press offices of the Green Party USA, the Libertarian Party, and the Reform Party. Despite repeated requests, we have not received responses from any of those parties.
Bush believes less is more. Under his plan, states have more freedom to choose how to spend federal funds. Bush's plan requires states to develop accountability programs but does not specify how. The Bush plan also streamlines the grant process by consolidating 60 different federal programs under five flexible programs.
Gore takes a different stand; his proposals promote a wide variety of specific federal programs.
Total spending on education. Gore proposes spending more than triple what Bush recommends. Gore's plan increases education funding by spending $170 billion over ten years. The plan includes $115 billion from the federal surplus and another $55 billion in tax proposals. Bush proposes an increase of $47.6 billion over the same time period.
Funding early childhood programs. Gore proposes a $50 billion universal prekindergarten program. Bush does not include prekindergarten in his plan. Both candidates support the current administration's $1 billion expansion of Head Start.
Funding for school construction. Gore's plan creates grants and interest-free loans for urgent repairs and school construction at a cost of $8 billion over ten years. Bush proposes a private-public partnership to leverage taxpayer money for school construction and expand the allowable uses of private activity bonds. The estimated cost for school construction and repair under Bush's plan is about $2 billion over ten years.
Bush also wants schools to be held accountable for doing their job. "I will give states unprecedented flexibility in using federal funds, but in return, the states must be held accountable for improving the academic achievement of students who benefit from federal assistance," Bush also commented in an Education World e-interview.
Both candidates propose an annual $500 million accountability fund. Their plans incorporate financial incentives and get-tough measures for schools that don't show progress. They also embrace standardized testing as a way to measure student achievement, and both call for all states to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), called "the nation's report card," which tests students in grades four, eight, and twelve in various subject areas.
Although his plan does not specifically tell states what they should include in their accountability systems, Bush does offer some suggestions. He suggests states develop accountability systems that include assessing teachers based on student results and subject-specific teacher testing.
Gore's plan is more specific about accountability than Bush's. It also requires teacher testing. The plan calls for testing all new teachers to establish a national standard and to certify all existing teachers. Gore's plan also calls for identification of low-performing teachers and their removal from the classroom.
The get-tough component of the Gore plan closes schools that do not make a significant improvement over two years. According to the plan, the schools reopen under new leadership and with some new staff. The accountability fund provides extra support to students during the transition and provides smaller classes and well-trained teachers. The plan's financial incentives attract an outstanding principal ($20,000) and a team of outstanding teachers ($10,000 each) to failing schools.
The Gore plan also holds schools accountable for reducing dropout rates. He expects schools to develop aggressive strategies to reduce dropout rates. Gore's plan offers bonuses to school districts and schools that make significant progress. Gore also supports matching grants for states that raise the compulsory school age from 16 to 18.
Vouchers are at the heart of Bush's school accountability plan. His voucher proposal diverts Title I funds from the failing school and gives it to parents ($1,500 per student). Parents can use that money to send their child to another school, including private schools.
The benefits of using vouchers to improve education for at-risk and minority students continues to be debated, even among academics who study the issue. However, Bush says, vouchers work.
"As governor, I passed reforms based on the sound principles of local control, high standards, and strong accountability," Bush said. "As a result of these commonsense reforms, test scores are up for all students in all grades, particularly African American and Hispanic children."
Gore opposes school vouchers. Although he agrees that parents need to have more school choice, he says, the way to accomplish that is by tripling the current number of public charter schools. "Simply identifying a school as 'failing' -- and siphoning resources away from that school -- makes little sense," Gore states in his platform.
Bush also favors expanding the number of public charter schools. He proposes doubling the existing number.
The two candidates recognize the current teacher shortage that many school districts throughout the nation are experiencing, especially shortages in rural and urban areas. Gore's plan allocates $8 billion over ten years to address the teacher shortage; Bush proposes $4.5 billion over the same period.
Both candidates' plans provide loan forgiveness to attract math and science teachers to high-need schools. The Bush plan proposes loan forgiveness up to $17,500 to math and science teachers if they teach in high-need schools for five years.
The Bush plan includes the Troops-to-Teachers program, which provides up to $270 million over ten years to attract military personnel to teach in U.S. classrooms. Bush also proposes $4.2 billion for teacher training and $700 million for loan forgiveness. Streamlining teacher certification is another component of Bush's plan to help reduce the teacher shortage.
Gore's recruitment plan, called the 21st Century Teacher Corps, focuses on recruiting and training a total of 1 million new teachers over ten years. The plan provides incentives of up to $10,000 to those who agree to teach in high-need schools. Gore also recognizes the need to raise teacher pay in order to keep teachers from leaving education. He proposes a $5,000 raise for all qualified teachers and a $10,000 salary increase for all master teachers.
The plans of both candidates offer a smorgasbord of remedies to close the achievement gap between poor and affluent school districts, including approaches to help schools close the digital divide.
Bush's plan includes a $720 million education technology fund. The plan also increases Pell grants for low-income students and funding for historically black colleges and Hispanic institutions.
Gore's $1 billion technology plan completes the job of wiring every classroom and school library by 2004. The plan then focuses on training students to achieve computer literacy by the end of eighth grade. Gore also calls upon members of AmeriCorps a national service organization to teach and promote the Internet in schools.
Gore's plan to close the achievement gap also includes increased funding so school districts can create smaller high schools and reduce class sizes. Several studies indicate smaller schools and small classes can help reduce the achievement gap for low-income and at-risk children.
Both candidates' platforms address several other areas aimed at improving public education. The Bush plan allocates $1.7 billion over ten years for character education and $9 billion for the Reading First initiative. The goal of that reading program is that all children will read at grade level by grade three. Bush also proposes spending $3.6 billion for after-school programs.
Gore's platform also increases after-school program spending, with a total allocation of $8 billion over ten years. The Ready-to-Learn reading program, with an allocation of $10 billion over ten years, targets preschool and early childhood centers. Ready-to-Learn includes reading programs, literacy training for early-childhood staff, and bonuses for child-care staff who complete the program. The program also provides books to every child-care program in the country.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON PLATFORMS
A Comparison of the Gore and Bush Education PlatformsPresidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush both promise to make education one of their top priorities as president. In some ways, their platforms are very similar, but in other ways, they are classrooms apart. The following is a brief summary of some major highlights of their education platforms:
1. Invests $170 billion in education over ten years
2. Establishes universal prekindergarten
3. Opposes vouchers
4. Supports NAEP testing
5. Creates annual $500 million accountability fund
6. Expands Head Start
7. Triples current number of charter schools
8. Invests $8 billion to remedy teacher shortages
9. Invests $8 billion in after-school programs
10. Invests $1 billion in technology
1. Invests $47.5 billion in education over ten years
2. Does not support universal prekindergarten
3. Supports vouchers
4. Supports NAEP testing
5. Creates annual $500 million accountability fund
6. Expands Head Start
7. Doubles current number of charter schools
8. Invests $4.2 billion to remedy teacher shortages
9. invests $3.6 billion in after-school programs
10. Invests $700 million in technology
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Diane Weaver Dunne
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