Education faceoff: University Democrats Strategy for challenging and keeping kids in school

By Krista Wettengel

“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.” — Barack Obama

America’s failing economy is a national crisis, but while our government tends to the problem on Wall Street, we cannot allow our leaders to forget about the crisis in our schools. The American educational system is in desperate need of reform. Countless disadvantaged children are falling through the cracks before they even get to kindergarten. The Republican-backed No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has effectively left many children behind. Nearly one-third of American high school students become dropouts, and the cost of college is skyrocketing. Sen. Barack Obama recognizes the problems in the system and has a comprehensive plan to repair them.

Obama understands that education at a young age is crucial to future success. Many poor children do not have access to proper nutrition and early education facilities. By the time they enter public school, they are already at a disadvantage compared to their healthier and wealthier peers. That is why Obama will greatly increase funding for Head Start, a national program for low-income families that provides services pertaining to education, nutrition, health and parental involvement.

The NCLB is riddled with problems. It has placed such an emphasis on standardized testing that teachers are “teaching to the test” rather than focusing on the curriculum. Instead of increasing funding where it is needed most, NCLB cuts funding for schools whose students do not score high enough. Obama will change this law. He will improve the way students’ progress is monitored, rather than standardized testing being the only method. He will also improve the law so that underperforming schools are properly funded.

The United States has one of the highest student dropout rates among industrialized countries. America cannot compete with the rest of the increasingly educated world if 30 percent of our kids don’t finish high school. Through new laws, Obama will provide funding for dropout intervention programs in middle schools. He also understands that children are at risk for dropping out or underachieving if they are unsupervised after school. Therefore, he will double federal funding for crucial after-school programs.

Obama worked extremely hard to earn his own college diploma. He finished paying his student loans only recently — and he’s 47. No one understands the value of a college education better than Barack Obama. Under his plan, community college would be free for most students. The plan would cover about two-thirds of tuition at the average public university. As for private schools, this tax credit plan would provide students with $4,000 toward their tuition. In order to qualify for this, students would need to accumulate 100 hours of community service. This will inspire more students to volunteer in their communities and re-establish the important American principle of civic participation. And remember, there are a million ways to serve the community — not everyone has to work in a soup kitchen.

Obama has two young daughters, so he understands America’s education needs as a legislator and a parent. Obama believes that the best education begins with a supportive home, and that belief informs his entire education plan. Obama has already sponsored education legislation in the Illinois and U.S. senates. Under the Obama plan, America can once again become a world leader in education, and all children will have the chance to reach their potential.

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