McCain backs privatization
October 25, 2008 3:07 AM
During his campaign, presidential candidate and Arizona Senator John McCain has pursued the same education policies he embraced during the last seven years of his office, even though educational groups in Arizona endorse Barack Obama and point to problems with education in his home state of Arizona.
McCain is a strong supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act, encourages the school voucher and charter school systems and has said he believes privatization of student loan programs for higher education will streamline financial aid for college students. Educators claim McCain’s education policies, and those of his Education Advisor and former Arizona Superintendant of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan, perpetuate the same policies implemented by the Bush administration and will ultimately damage public education in the United States.
The official McCain-Palin campaign Web site, www.johnmccain.com, said McCain believes schools “can and should” compete with each other to provide the best education to students. This philosophy embraces one of the original precepts of No Child Left Behind, wherein schools with higher achievement scores are rewarded with more money, and schools where students fail to meet a minimum standard will lose funding for specific services. Adopting a traditional principle of capitalism for education, supporters of the law like McCain have said the competition for funds will improve efficiency and curriculum in public schools. Schools testing at less than adequate levels will be punished and forced to develop better programs to maintain funds from the federal government.
McCain’s campaign staff could not be reached for comment.
John Hartsell, the director of public relations for the Arizona Education Association, said educators in the state McCain represents in the Senate take issue with his policies. So much so, Hartsell said, the AEA has publicly endorsed McCain’s competitor.
“The way No Child Left Behind stands now,” Hartsell said, “funding is reduced for schools that are already struggling.” There was no evidence McCain’s and Keegan’s ideas were working, Hartsell said, because Arizona schools were suffering despite having a powerful representative in the Senate.
“Arizona schools rank No. 49 in the nation when it comes to pupil funding,” Hartsell said. “And Arizona schools will not benefit at all from McCain, even if he is president, because he supports vouchers and that takes money directly away from schools.”
The school voucher system McCain supports provides parents with credit to any school for their children. Private schools compete to enroll students and receive the voucher payment from the government. Hartsell said schools enroll students with better grades and performance for public funds to raise the average performance rating of the school. But students with lower grades have a narrowed selection of schools with the same government money.
“We hear this is an incentive for schools to meet the goal,” Hartsell said. “But McCain’s real goal is to demonstrate privatization as a solution to our education woes in this country.”
Jerry Spreitzer, executive director of the Arizona Federation of Teachers Unions, said his organization endorsed Obama for president and was actively encouraging its members and the parents of students to vote and motivate others to vote.
“Arizona is not a battleground state, and the teachers here are focusing more on state legislature because most people involved in education have little interest in electing McCain,” Spreitzer said.
Faculty and staff of SF State expressed concerns about the school, their jobs, and higher education in California if McCain is elected president in the coming election.
Ramon Castellblanch, assistant professor of health education and president of the San Francisco California Faculty Association Chapter, used simple terms for education under McCain.
“McCain is a radical market fundamentalist who believes there is no need for regulation, and his whole philosophy is to support that ideal,” Castellblanch said.
McCain wants student loans administered by private banks, Castellblanch said. “If McCain wins, it reduces the chances for any adequate funding or CSU. That means more overworked teachers working even more, new and higher fees for students, and impacted admissions students will be even harder to get in.”
Castellblanch paused and sighed.
“CSU would be greatly eroded if he won,” Castellblanch said.
After a $1.9 million cut from SF State’s budget last week, and a special session of the California Legislature expected to cut spending even more, Castellblanch said SF State is going to need a president who will make financing for higher education a priority. He said students might face a mid-year fee increase this winter to help make up the difference.
“California is going into serious financial deterioration,” Castellblanch said. “And McCain doesn’t have students’ interests at heart.”
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