Kerry, Bush target nation’s students

John Kerry aims to utilize the No Child Left Behind program. The President plans to expand financial aid for most students. Courtney Makupson Timothy Saler The war in Iraq, national security, and credibility are among

John Kerry aims to utilize the No Child Left Behind program.

The President plans to expand financial aid for most students.
Courtney Makupson

Timothy Saler

The war in Iraq, national security, and credibility are among the heated debates between Presidential candidates John Kerry and President George W. Bush.

Pennsylvania has been a hot spot for campaigning Democrats recently. Kerry, in his mission to visit U.S. colleges and universities to criticize the Bush administration, visited both Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania on Sept. 24.

Barack Obama, keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July 27, delivered a speech on behalf of the Democratic Party at Philadelphia’s Love Park on Sept. 27.

“Every child should have a decent education, and every child should be able to go to college one day,” said Obama.

Many supporters of Kerry hold Bush responsible for the lack of a decent education that Obama spoke of. Many feel that proposed improvements in education have not materialized, including Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which promised to improve the educational opportunities for every American child regardless of ethnicity, income or background.

“No Child Left Behind Act is a classic George Bush failure,” Mark Nevins, Pennsylvania communication director for the Kerry campaign, said. “He came up with this program, and then refused to provide it with any funding.”

Nevins also said he holds Bush accountable for under-funding Pennsylvania schools by $208 million dollars. He explained that Pennsylvania schools had to sacrifice due to the under-funding.

He cited a school in the Norristown district that had to cut its art program; the York City School District, whose board has proposed cutting 53 staff members; and the North Hampton school district, which has proposed cutting $70,000 from school supplies, special education, and remedial teachers.

Kerry’s strategy to rebuild the quality of education from grade school to college, according to his Web site, consists of creating a more effective plan for NCLB, helping more students graduate in the next five years, offering new incentives for America’s children and teachers, and making four years of college more affordable.

Kerry and Edwards have said they will fully fund the NCLB and aim toward fully funding education programs for students with disabilities with a new National Education Trust Fund. They will also make sure that the rules under NCLB achieve the act’s purposes and raise high school graduation rates.

“I think we have to help high school students after school by expanding after school programs that contribute to learning after hours,” said Nevins about the Democrats’ stance on education.

Kerry is also aware of the incentives needed to attract teachers and have announced a $30 billion “New Bargain for America’s Children and Teachers,” which will recruit or retain 500,000 teachers over the next four years.

The plan will offer pay hikes of at least $5,000. As conditions of funding, requiring states or school districts will have to implement new tests for new teachers with high standards; develop or maintain fast, fair procedures for improving or replacing teachers who do not perform; and offer increased pay and responsibility to teachers who excel.

Kerry has also made promises to students who pursue education after high school, pledging that four years of college will be more affordable if he is elected President. Kerry plans to accomplish his goal by offering $10 billion in fiscal relief for states that commit to keeping tuition increases no greater than the rate of inflation.

This will build on Kerry’s fully refundable College Opportunity Tax Credit on $4,000 of tuition for all four years of college. Kerry plans include rewarding colleges for increasing the number of graduates that received Pell grants and requiring greater disclosure of low-income, middle-income and minority enrollment and graduation rates. Kerry has said his focus is on increasing the number of graduating college students by one million over the next five years.

Courtney Makupson can be reached at

President Bush has made education reform a priority in all of his campaigns for public office since his first race for governor of Texas in 1994. However, the Democrats have said his actions on education reform are often more obscure than his policy speeches.

His supporters say that he has taken a hard stand against social promotion and has held schools accountable. Opponents, however, have said that his only actions on education are unfunded mandates and robbery of the public school system.

In the President’s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, on Sept. 2, he reiterated a promise he had made on the campaign trail four years before: “We will leave no child behind.”

The President has provided strong support for stricter standards and more accountability in schools, and he has promised to expand Pell grants for low and middle income families. The president said he firmly believes that the beginning of a successful career is a college diploma.

According to the president’s campaign Web site, he “will allow low-income students who take the rigorous high school curriculum required by the State Scholars Program to receive up to $1,000 in additional Pell Grant funding, bringing the total maximum award up to $5,050.”

Bush outlines a plan which provides “$84 million for year-round Pell Grants for students who graduate early.” Under the current system, students may only receive one Pell Grant per school year.

Under the president’s new student loan policy, loan limits will increase from $2,625 to $3,000 for first-year students, and schools which have low default rates will be granted more leeway in the disbursement of those loans.

His Web site also says that he plans to expand AmeriCorps to 75,000 members. The program gives full-time members $4,725 toward their education. The site says that if re-elected, President Bush will “provide $125 million in grants to serve as an incentive for community colleges to provide dual enrollment programs.”

Many Temple students have in fact saved hundreds to thousands of dollars by receiving dual credit from a local community college while taking rigorous courses in high school. The president has said he intends to allow more students nationwide to take advantage of that opportunity.

The president’s plan also expands federal financial aid to older students that return to college part time, like the students in Temple’s adult learning programs.

On the issue of school choice and vouchers for private schools, the president believes that rigorous competition between public and private schools will improve both. He wants to subsidize private schools through a voucher program.

Many critics of the president’s testing policies have said that his education reform package encourages teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ but the president believes that ‘teaching to the test’ is not a problem – as long as the test itself is asking the right questions.

If ‘teaching to the test’ teaches students the basics, then the president has said he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. The simplicity of his approach is often looked down upon by academics and scholars.

The president’s goal is to improve the education of every American, not simply by throwing money at the problem but by focusing that money on key areas and tying it to performance and accountability.

Timothy Saler can be reached at

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