Obama Jabs McCain for Supporting School Vouchers

By Fred Lucas | July 14, 2008 | 7:12 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a gathering of public school teachers he opposes school vouchers in contrast to Republican Sen. John McCain. 
On Sunday, Obama spoke to the American Federation of Teachers, via satellite, after the union of 1.4 million teachers and other public school staff endorsed the Illinois senator for president. Obama pledged he was against vouchers to send children to private schools.
“His only proposal seems to be recycling tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice,” Obama said of McCain. “Now, I’ve been a proponent of public school choice throughout my career. … We know well-designed public charter schools have a lot to offer, and I’ve actually helped pass legislation to expand them.
“But what I do oppose is using public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools, not throwing our hands up and walking away from them,” Obama added. (See Full Speech)
School choice has not been a major issue debated in this year’s presidential race. However, McCain, an Arizona senator, brought up the issue last week when speaking to the League of United Latin American Citizens convention.
“The civil rights challenge of our time is education,” McCain said. “We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition. … We need to empower parents with choice.” (See Previous Story)
McCain’s campaign Web site says, “If a school will not change, the students should be able to change schools. John McCain believes parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children.
“He finds it beyond hypocritical that many of those who would refuse to allow public school parents to choose their child's school would never agree to force their own children into a school that did not work or was unsafe,” the Web site adds.
Obama told the teachers’ union he supported the goal of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind plan. However, he said the plan has not worked because the administration won’t provide adequate school funding to meet the goals.
“We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind by providing the funding that was promised, giving states the resources they need, and finally meeting our commitment to special education,” Obama said. “But that alone is not an education policy. It’s just a starting point.”
He promised better teacher pay and programs to help pay the college education costs for teachers. He also proposed funding for pre-kindergarten childhood education.
“Together, we will begin changing the odds for our at-risk children by providing quality, affordable early childhood education for all our children,” Obama said. “To address the achievement gap, we’ll expand after school and summer learning opportunities.
“To address the dropout crisis that condemns so many futures, we’ll intervene much earlier in a child’s education – because the forces that lead a high school student to drop out start well before the ninth grade,” he added.