The question is this: the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries of the world.
The implications of this are clearly obvious. Some even say it poses a threat to our national security.
Do you feel that way and what do you intend to do about it?
MCCAIN: Well, it's the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
That's the only part that John McCain got right.
There's no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America after a long and difficult and terrible struggle.
No, actually, we haven't. The people who can afford to still send their children out of the public school district for which they are zoned. At least you didn't pull out any "diversity" shtick, you moronic man.
But what is the advantage in a low income area of sending a child to a failed school and that being your only choice?
So choice and competition amongst schools is one of the key elements that's already been proven in places in like New Orleans and New York City and other places, where we have charter schools, where we take good teachers and we reward them and promote them.
Under No Child Left Behind, the teachers are getting left behind. They have to constantly teach to high-risk tests or risk losing their jobs. The ones that are getting rewarded and promoted are the ones that are toeing the line on this and turning our kids into yet another commodity to be pushed around. Same ol' crud under different names. And what would you know about New Orleans, anyhow? The closest you got to it was the airport in Kenner. What's the matter, man...afraid we'd bring up what Dubya was actually doing on 8-29?
And we find bad teachers another line of work. And we have to be able to give parents the same choice, frankly, that Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama had and Cindy and I had to send our kids to the school -- their kids to the school of their choice. Charter schools aren't the only answer, but they're providing competition. They are providing the kind of competitions that have upgraded both schools -- types of schools.
All right, fine, throw in the Obamas having made the same choice that you made, not your kids, to send them to the school of your choice. What line of work would you give to these "bad teachers", Johnny? Really, I wanna know. I think, when you lose this election, as a "bad politician", I'm gonna advocate sending you in to teach at an open enrollment public school with a student population that is 99.6% black. Let's see how long you'd last.
Now, throwing money at the problem is not the answer. You will find that some of the worst school systems in America get the most money per student.
So I believe that we need to reward these good teachers.
MCCAIN: We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which -- or have the certification that some are required in some states.
Certification is absolutely necessary, Johnny. There still have to be some standards. Way to kick the profession of teaching while it is already down, man. The two-year turnover of teachers who come out of the Teach for America program is not really serving the people who enter into the program, and it really isn't serving our kids - not exactly a success story. Troops for Teachers actually sounds better - I guess I can give you something on that one.
Look, we must improve education in this country. As far as college education is concerned, we need to make those student loans available. We need to give them a repayment schedule that they can meet. We need to have full student loan program for in-state tuition. And we certainly need to adjust the certain loan eligibility to inflation.
Howzabout actually lowering the cost of college tuition? If that doesn't happen, fewer people will be sending their kids on to college because they will have already shelled out loads of dough to send their kids elsewhere, on account of many (too many) of those TFA people treating their time in public school as a giant revolving door, an occupational detour by which they can pay their own college tuitions. Then again, this is the first time in the history of our country that everybody is expected to go to college.
OBAMA: Well, we have a tradition of local control of the schools and that's a tradition that has served us well. But I do think that it is important for the federal government to step up and help local school districts do some of the things they need to do.
Yeah, our version of local control is absolutely screwed up. Using a Community Block Development Grant to fund a pie-in-the-wilderness set of classrooms, among other shenanigans, makes for a "system of schools" without much hope for their maintenance...
Now we tried to do this under President Bush. He put forward No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, they left the money behind for No Child Left Behind. And local school districts end up having more of a burden, a bunch of unfunded mandates, the same kind of thing that happened with special education where we did the right thing by saying every school should provide education to kids with special needs, but we never followed through on the promise of funding, and that left local school districts very cash-strapped.
Yeah, the money has gone to Iraq and/or Wall Street. And when the soldiers return, they can martyr themselves some more in the inner city public schools after going through the TTT program unless something major changes - like the way we see education.
So what I want to do is focus on early childhood education, providing teachers higher salaries in exchange for more support. Senator McCain and I actually agree on two things that he just mentioned.
Higher salaries is a damn good start. Agreeing with McCain, however, is walking a flaming tightrope over Niagara Falls.
Charter schools, I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois despite some reservations from teachers unions. I think it's important to foster competition inside the public schools.
Dammit, Barack, this is simply more caving in to seeing education as a commodity rather than an experience that values learning and thinking. Disappointed!!!!!!
And we also agree on the need for making sure that if we have bad teachers that they are swiftly -- after given an opportunity to prove themselves, if they can't hack it, then we need to move on because our kids have to have their best future.
Where we disagree is on the idea that we can somehow give out vouchers -- give vouchers as a way of securing the problems in our education system. And I also have to disagree on Senator McCain's record when it comes to college accessibility and affordability.
Recently his key economic adviser was asked about why he didn't seem to have some specific programs to help young people go to college and the response was, well, you know, we can't give money to every interest group that comes along.
Heh. The economic adviser must have heard "interested group". Collegians are certainly very interested in how their pursuit of knowledge will be funded.
I don't think America's youth are interest groups, I think they're our future. And this is an example of where we are going to have to prioritize. We can't say we're going to do things and then not explain in concrete terms how we're going to pay for it.
And if we're going to do some of the things you mentioned, like lowering loan rates or what have you, somebody has got to pay for it. It's not going to happen on its own.
I suggest McCain donate a bunch of his homes to help pay.
SCHIEFFER: What about that, Senator?
MCCAIN: Well, sure. I'm sure you're aware, Senator Obama, of the program in the Washington, D.C., school system where vouchers are provided and there's a certain number, I think it's a thousand and some and some 9,000 parents asked to be eligible for that.
Because they wanted to have the same choice that you and I and Cindy and your wife have had. And that is because they wanted to choose the school that they thought was best for their children.
And we all know the state of the Washington, D.C., school system. That was vouchers. That was voucher, Senator Obama. And I'm frankly surprised you didn't pay more attention to that example.
Yeah, it was vouchers all right, and there are a bunch of reasons why folks from your own party are abandoning them. Read up a little more, man. Sheesh.
Now as far as the No Child Left Behind is concerned, it was a great first beginning in my view. It had its flaws, it had its problems, the first time we had looked at the issue of education in America from a nationwide perspective. And we need to fix a lot of the problems. We need to sit down and reauthorize it.
No. No we don't. Really. It's true. Trust me on this one. Trust the teachers...before you deem them to be "bad", that is.
But, again, spending more money isn't always the answer. I think the Head Start program is a great program. A lot of people, including me, said, look, it's not doing what it should do. By the third grade many times children who were in the Head Start program aren't any better off than the others.
Actually, they're finding that that's true of ALL kids, not just the ones in Head Start. "(T)oo much academics too early can actually hurt kids' achievement in the long run." It's still no excuse for cutting it. If you cut it, cut ALL of the preschool and early childhood programs everywhere while you're at it, John. That will be a great stride taken for the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
Let's reform it. Let's reform it and fund it. That was, of course, out-of-bounds by the Democrats. We need to reform these programs. We need to have transparency. We need to have rewards. It's a system that cries out for accountability and transparency and the adequate funding.
Accountability, did you say? Transparency? Transparency????? We've certainly got transparency out the wazoo in this neck of the woods! And, boy, Johnny was the picture of transparency when he was smirking away at Barack, that one over there by him. Just yesterday, my son got into serious trouble at school for smirking, among other things. It just ain't nice. If you're gonna smirk, you might as well go for a full-on grin.
McCain's out-of-touch takes on all of this are staggering to me. Obama's concessions to the charter school craze sweeping the nation are disturbing as well. In the end, though, John cannot have a better position with which to carry out these misguided, ill-informed regards for public education come November 4th. I'll be making sure of that when I head into the voting booth.