Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Who Is Better for Blacks on Education: Obama or McCain? By Akindele Akinyemi

This was last night. Sen. Barack Obama smiling.

Will Sen. Barack Obama become the first Black president of the United States of America?

Or will Sen. John McCain become inaugurated as the oldest President of the United States of America?

Either way it goes we will be making history in our country. The Presidential race is going to be very tight. With John McCain the nominee for the Republican Party the Democrats are trying to paint McCain as another President Bush. The Republicans are painting Obama as this candidate who is out of touch with the common man values.

But I want to honestly ask this question. Who is better for Blacks and minorities in America in terms of education?

Let's take a look at John McCain. Here is someone who I feel is genuine and is not like Bush. I think it is silly to think that this man is the duplicate of Bush. First, Bush is more conservative than McCain. Many conservatives feel that McCain is not "conservative" enough and he is a liberal.

McCain believes that education is clearly the remaining barrier, whether it is preschool or Head Start or elementary or K–12. He feels that we have an unacceptable situation in America today where lower-income people do not have the same access to the quality education that higher-income people have.

I know for a fact that McCain supports educational options for families where Obama calls charter schools an "experiment" (which is highly offensive for those of us in the charter movement). So I will support McCain on that issue.

Obama, on the other hand, announced an $18 billion plan to enhance early childhood education, improve the dropout prevention rate and provide teacher incentives. His position on No Child Left Behind is flawed. For example, Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests.

Let me stop here.

The purpose of education is to do just that...educate. Teachers and administrators coddle our children too much in the classroom and give them excuses not to learn. We spend more time dealing with the behaviors of at-risk children than getting on the business of teaching. If educators were to handle their actual business to teach in the classroom we would not have to worry about standardized tests because comprehending the lessons would come naturally.

Obama claims he would recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. He will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

Sounds good on paper but what about teaching a child geography, civics and economics? We stress so much as educators and politicians about math and science because the rest of the world are doing better than the United States. But here is the catch. The rest of the world also take the time to learn other subjects that will help them become marketable. We stop teaching geography and now we have a generation of children who cannot read a map, understand the U.S. Constitution or balance a check book.

Obama will address the dropout crisis by passing his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school - strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.

The operative word in the above paragraph is funding. When will the federal government stop spending so much money on things that we can do on our own?

McCain, on the other hand, feels that choice and competition is the key to success in education in America. Charter schools, home schooling, scholarships and tax credits are needed. It means rewarding good teachers and finding bad teachers another line of work. It means rewarding good performing schools, and it really means in some cases putting bad performing schools out of business. McCain wants every American parent to have a choice, a choice as to how they want their child educated.

McCain supports a program of federally financed vouchers, but states would decide individually whether to use standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about who could get the vouchers. McCain’s proposal would create the most ambitious voucher experiment yet, spending $5.5 billion over three years to present one million students with vouchers of up to $2,000 annually.To counter the argument that vouchers siphon money from public schools when students leave, McCain would create a new source of financing: the tax money now spent as corporate subsidies.

Students in America rank at the bottom in the most disciplines such as physics & chemistry. We should try charter schools all over America. He would take the gas and oil, ethanol and sugar subsidies and take that money and put it into a test voucher program over three years to be used in every poor school district in every state in America.

Obama wants to put billions of dollars into early childhood education that makes sure that our African-American youth, Latino youth, poor youth of every race, are getting the kind of help that they need so that they know their numbers, their colors, their letters. I am not certain pouring more money into things that are already broken is the solution to our problems.

Whether you like McCain's position on education or Obama's position we, as voters, have to understand that the solution is not pumping more money into an already broke system. We have to understand that poor quality output of public schools is not because of too little spending per student - - its a system problem.

In June 2004 Achieve, Inc., a bipartisan, nonprofit education organization formed by governors and prominent business leaders, found that math and English tests for high school diplomas require only middle school knowledge, and that those math graduation tests measure only what students in other countries learn in the seventh grade.

How about elementary school? Two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders read below grade level and the weakest ones are falling further behind, according to the U.S. Education Department's reading Report Card. Students reading at a proficient or advanced level from private schools performed 57% better than public schools.

Additionally, President Bill Clinton called for volunteers to teach our kids, while many educators blame parents. Can you imagine how far Wal-Mart or General Electric would get if their management blamed poor quality and high prices on their customers, and asked even higher prices plus volunteers to resolve shortcomings? Since private sector firms have formidable competitors world-wide, and since their customers are free to choose among many competitors, these firms would have to restructure in a major way, or go out of business. The government education system is not required to compete, and therefore produces the obvious comparative result. Its delivery system needs major restructuring to force it to compete in the open market, to produce more quality and customer (parent) satisfaction per dollar - - not just adjust quality measurement methods, demand more money, hire more non-teaching personnel, raise compensation packages, build more buildings and call for volunteers.

One thing I do agree with Obama is create substantial, sustained teaching service scholarships that completely cover training costs in high-quality teacher preparation or alternative certification programs at the undergraduate or graduate level for those who are willing to teach in a high-need field or location for at least four years.

Barack Obama wants to provide funding for the creation or enhancement of state leadership academies. These academies, located in universities, state agencies or free-standing organizations will sponsor, host and coordinate professional development opportunities for educational leaders in their respective states. In addition, the academies will serve as centers where each state’s top educational leaders can gather to share practices and help create the professional development requirements and offerings in their states.

It sounds good on paper but I strongly feel it would be a waste of money and resources. Most universities like Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University have leadership programs that are geared towards educational leadership.

One thing I disagree with McCain is how he voted no on the following issues:

Restore education program cuts slated for vocational education, adult education, GEAR UP, and TRIO.

Increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship to $4,500 immediately. Obama supports increasing the Pell Grant from $4,050 to $5,100. Universities are playing the victim role by increasing tuition to make college unaffordable.

Increases future math and science teacher student loan forgiveness to $23,000.

On the other hand he was right to vote no to authorize a federal program aimed at reducing class size. States (and really the local school system or charter system) should be in charge of reducing classroom size for students.

McCain also voted yes to declare that erecting religious symbols and praying on public school campuses as part of a memorial service does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, and to provide legal assistance to any government entity defending such a case. I can support this type of measure as we need to restore God in our public schools. When liberals took out God and replaced it with legislation such as anti-bullying laws to protect homosexuals that is when public schooling went downhill.

Obama feels that an experienced, highly qualified teacher should earn $100,000. In exchange for more money, teachers need to become more accountable for their performances, and school districts need to have greater ability to get rid of ineffective teachers.

This is double talk. Teachers in Detroit Public Schools with a Masters are being paid enough to live comfortably, pay their car note, house note and if they are smart and not living above their means can take trips on their own personal time and never have to worry about being fired because they are unionized. Charter school teachers are paid significantly less but are beginning to turn out the grade. Yes, I agree that teachers should be paid what they are worth but as we can see from our own school system that is not always the issue.

Both candidates agree that parents should be the center of the educational movement in our community. Sen. Obama will call on parents to turn off the TV and video games, make sure their children are getting their homework done and work to take a greater stake in their child’s education both in and outside of school. I do not have a problem with that.

I probably would have supported Obama more if he would make educational choice a central platform of his agenda. While he has long advocated a reformist agenda that looks favorably upon things like competition between schools, test-based accountability, and performance pay for teachers he will not come out and support us like he should. Why? Because he caters to the teacher unions.

Blacks should realize that the stronger candidate on education will come from John McCain and NOT Barack Obama. The huge difference is McCain supports charters from a state level while Obama supports federal policies to help charter schools. Of course when I hear Obama talking about charter schools I wonder if he is sincere. This is a guy who will say anything for a vote.

However, truth be told about Obama is the fact that he has never spearheaded education reforms during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. He has made no mark in educational policy as a Senator which makes me suspect of him. Is he going after votes or is he serious about educational reform? I'm asking these questions because he has a sense of just trying to get votes from people.

After clinching the nomination last night from Clinton and giving one of his feel good speeches in St. Paul, MN I am fully convinced that Obama should not be the one running our country. However, McCain did not sound convincing either but one thing McCain has on Obama is sincerity.

And when you look at these poll numbers in Michigan:

Survey USA May 27 McCain 41% Obama 37%
Detroit News EPIC/MRA May 19-22 McCain 44% Obama 40%
Rasmussen May 11 McCain 45% Obama 44%

And these numbers from Detroit News EPIC/MRA Survey from May 2008:

McCain leads 59-27 in Outer Wayne (Wayne County minus Detroit)
McCain leads 51-35 in Macomb County
McCain leads 53-34 in Grand Rapids media market
McCain leads 53-19 in Traverse City media market
McCain leads 59-26 in Southwest Michigan
McCain leads 42-28 among Independents's
McCain leads 54-30 among Catholics

It is not a pretty picture for Obama here in Michigan. So he can scream Yes We Can all he wants but look at what has happened with education right here in Michigan.

From the Detroit News:

A new report from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, showed Detroit's graduation rate for 2005 -- the most recent year available -- was 37.5 percent, up from 24.9 percent the previous year. Michigan's rate for graduating African-American males was 34.6 percent, compared with 48.2 percent for the nation.

Obama solution is bigger government for education. The above paragraph is the result of larger government involvement in education. So we cannot risk Obama becoming President and further running our education system in the ground.

I still to this day do not understand why we have a U.S. Department of Education when nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it states that education is a federal responsibility. Obama wants to make it a federal responsibility while McCain wants to shrink government and give parents more control over their children's education.

Who is better for Blacks and minorities in terms of education? I am going to say John McCain on this one. Obama must become more progressive in terms of evolving education from the free market perspective to get my vote. But I cannot vote for someone who advocates sex education for 5 year olds.

1 comment:

Constructive Feedback said...

Brother A:

For me it is not about just "Obama". Obama represents a machine. This machine already dominates where Black folks are most concentrated. This machine already runs our schools.

You should check out the happenings in Clayton County Georgia. After the county turned majority Black about 5 years ago our brothers and sisters proudly worked to take over the county governance away from the Good Ole Boys.....the White DEMOCRATS who ran the county in years past. During that next election the key campaign sign that sticks out was the one that read "We Run Things Now. Things Are Going To Be Different".

Indeed this is the case. Years of fighting has pushed out 3 superintendents. Today the school board is waiting on pins and needles regarding the decision to strip them of their accreditation during a vote in August of this year.

On Tuesday there was a local Black radio show in which the callers - Democrats- where slamming the Democratic leadership of the county - this same leadership that they put into office.

The point that is emblematic was that the second topic of the show was the great accomplishment for Black people in having Barack Obama running in the general election.

There is a 100% abstraction between what is going on in the streets of our communities and what we as Black people do in the voting booth.

Barack Obama is not going to stand up to the teachers unions any more than he has attempted to tell illegal immigrants in the context of reducing the pressure on low skilled Black workers made to battle for unskilled jobs with an increasing number of other poor people.

Evil George W. Bush increased educational spending $12 billion per year during his first budget over the last amount spent by Bill Clinton. Clinton in his final year as president was invited to speak at the NEA national convention to a roaring applause. The same NEA sued Bush for failing to spend enough on education.

For some strange reason I figure that $18 billion offered by Obama over Bush will be seen as a wholesale revolution in education IF you listen to the NEA.