Economy knocks education out of campaign spotlight | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation
News & Events Header

Teachers College Newsroom

Skip to content Skip to content

Economy knocks education out of campaign spotlight

Forget Joe the Plumber. Joe the teacher wants to know what happened to education as an issue during the presidential campaign.

"The country, if education is something they're concerned about, they've got to seek it out," said Joe Post, a 17-year-veteran language arts teacher at a middle school in the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, Ohio. "It's not going to be on the front page of the newspaper in this election."

"It's really unusual at least in recent history that education has had such a diminished status," said Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "There's no reason it shouldn't be as big an issue as health care, or global warming or energy."

The short answer why education got swamped is easy: the economy.

"Education is about the future, and right now people are highly concerned about the present," said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Still, in a debate at Teachers College, Columbia University, senior McCain education adviser Lisa Graham Keegan said neither candidate has gotten enough credit for talking about education. She said McCain focused on education in speeches to the Urban League, the NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic group. Her counterpart with the Obama campaign, Linda Darling-Hammond, said Obama had made 12 speeches focused on education.

"For both gentlemen, the day after they give these major announcements, it falls flat," Graham Keegan said. "As a public, we kind of have to put part of that on us, part of that on the press that's not following through."

It's true cutbacks have curtailed print media staffs, and that journalists who still cover topics like education are increasingly focused locally.

"Voters don't connect what happens in Washington to what goes on in their local schools," said Richard Lee Colvin, director of the Hechinger Institute, which supports education journalism. "Journalists could connect that for them, but the changes in the media industry I think prevent that from happening very often."

But if reporters bear some responsibility, the candidates aren't blameless. Dating back to the primaries, the Education Writers Association tried repeatedly to bring candidates together for a debate on education, to no avail.

McCain supports vouchers, but how far will he go, given that his only proposal so far is expanding a federal program for Washington, D.C.'s schools?

Obama complains too many students are taking "fill-in-the-bubble" tests and there's not enough creativity in the classroom — but it's not clear what the alternative would be (his campaign says he would keep annual tests). Some of his top advisers, meanwhile, have different views on issues like teacher training. How would he resolve them?

Joe Post has the same question as many teachers: Given the surging deficit, how will Washington back up all the rules and requirements of NCLB with money and other resources to help schools and teachers?

Mostly, he wants the candidates talking about issues that will affect the country beyond the immediate horizon.

"It seems politicians are more concerned about the here and now and not looking forward to the future," he said. "In national politics, everything seems to be reactionary."
 
The article "Economy knocks education out of campaign spotlight" was published at October 29th in the "Associated Press" http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNam52wefiFZ5QMvHlOltW-PkJhwD943MCK8B

Published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008

Economy knocks education out of campaign spotlight

"The country, if education is something they're concerned about, they've got to seek it out," said Joe Post, a 17-year-veteran language arts teacher at a middle school in the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, Ohio. "It's not going to be on the front page of the newspaper in this election."

"It's really unusual at least in recent history that education has had such a diminished status," said Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "There's no reason it shouldn't be as big an issue as health care, or global warming or energy."

The short answer why education got swamped is easy: the economy.

"Education is about the future, and right now people are highly concerned about the present," said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Still, in a debate at Teachers College, Columbia University, senior McCain education adviser Lisa Graham Keegan said neither candidate has gotten enough credit for talking about education. She said McCain focused on education in speeches to the Urban League, the NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic group. Her counterpart with the Obama campaign, Linda Darling-Hammond, said Obama had made 12 speeches focused on education.

"For both gentlemen, the day after they give these major announcements, it falls flat," Graham Keegan said. "As a public, we kind of have to put part of that on us, part of that on the press that's not following through."

It's true cutbacks have curtailed print media staffs, and that journalists who still cover topics like education are increasingly focused locally.

"Voters don't connect what happens in Washington to what goes on in their local schools," said Richard Lee Colvin, director of the Hechinger Institute, which supports education journalism. "Journalists could connect that for them, but the changes in the media industry I think prevent that from happening very often."

But if reporters bear some responsibility, the candidates aren't blameless. Dating back to the primaries, the Education Writers Association tried repeatedly to bring candidates together for a debate on education, to no avail.

McCain supports vouchers, but how far will he go, given that his only proposal so far is expanding a federal program for Washington, D.C.'s schools?

Obama complains too many students are taking "fill-in-the-bubble" tests and there's not enough creativity in the classroom — but it's not clear what the alternative would be (his campaign says he would keep annual tests). Some of his top advisers, meanwhile, have different views on issues like teacher training. How would he resolve them?

Joe Post has the same question as many teachers: Given the surging deficit, how will Washington back up all the rules and requirements of NCLB with money and other resources to help schools and teachers?

Mostly, he wants the candidates talking about issues that will affect the country beyond the immediate horizon.

"It seems politicians are more concerned about the here and now and not looking forward to the future," he said. "In national politics, everything seems to be reactionary."
 
The article "Economy knocks education out of campaign spotlight" was published at October 29th in the "Associated Press" http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNam52wefiFZ5QMvHlOltW-PkJhwD943MCK8B
How This Gift Connects The Dots
 
Scholarships & Fellowships
 
Faculty & Programs
 
Campus & Technology
 
Financial Flexibility
 
Engage TC Alumni & Friends