Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Obama on the Issues - Education


Senator Obama is committed to providing every American with the opportunity to receive a quality education, from pre-kindergarten to college or vocational school to job retraining programs.

Technology has created a quiet revolution by breaking down barriers and connecting the world's economies. Businesses have the ability to move jobs wherever there is an Internet connection. Countries like India and China start schooling their children earlier, keep them in school longer, and have a strategic emphasis on math, science, and technology. The importance of educating American children for the global economy was the subject of a commencement address that

Senator Obama delivered in June 2005 at Knox College.

Senator Obama believes that we must do the same here in America. States and local school districts, as well as parents, teachers, and students must take the lead. The federal government must fund its mandates and assist in identifying and expanding the best programs.

However, there is no substitute for strong parental involvement. Because education begins at home, parents must set high standards and inspirational examples for their children. As a father, Senator Obama believes we need to find the time and the energy to help our kids love learning. Parents can read to their children, discuss what they read, and make time for this by turning off the TV.

More info: Senator Obama's Speech on Reading

Early Education

Head Start is the major Federal program supporting early education. In Illinois, Head Start provides tens of thousands of children with a safe learning environment, while encouraging parents to be involved in their children's education. Senator Obama believes that Congress must increase overall funding for the program, especially funding for Early Head Start and teacher education. He will also work to preserve the essential role of Head Start parents.

Primary & Secondary Education

Local public schools not only educate our students, they often provide a focus for community activity. Local school districts often serve as laboratories for innovation in education, but too often this innovation remains localized. Although the federal role in education is limited, one way the federal government can make the most of its scarce resources is by fostering innovation - identifying the best programs and practices, and helping expand them around the country.

Senator Obama has introduced the Innovation Districts for School Improvement Act (S. 2441). Under this initiative, school districts would submit plans on how they would become centers of reform. Twenty districts nationwide would be selected based on the best plans to increase achievement for all students and put effective teachers in all classrooms. These districts would receive substantial federal resources but would be required to implement systemic reforms and show convincing results.

More info: Senator's speech about Innovation Districts: 21st Century Education

Differences in learning opportunities during the summer contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling poor and minority students from their middle-class peers. Senator Obama introduced the Summer Term Education Programs for Upward Progress Act (STEP UP) (S. 2149) to address the achievement gaps among schoolchildren in the early grades. STEP UP establishes a grant program to support summer learning opportunities to be offered by local schools or community organizations.

Post-Secondary Education

Senator Obama believes that every high school graduate should have the opportunity to go to college or vocational school. Student loans provide critical financial aid for many Americans. Not long ago, financial aid was primarily in the form of grants. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Graduates now have more and more difficulty keeping up with loan payments. At a minimum, our government has the responsibility to ensure that the most affordable and sensible loans are available to our students. But government and students are not the only ones who need to act. Tuition costs have been rising at an average rate of 8% per year, well above the overall rate of inflation. Colleges and universities must also do their part to rein in costs and pass those savings on to students.

To address this problem, Barack Obama's first bill as a U.S. Senator was the HOPE Act (Higher Education Opportunity Through Pell Grant Expansion Act) (S.697), which would help make college more affordable for many Americans. The bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant from the current limit of $4,050 to a new maximum of $5,100.

More info: HOPE Act Press Release

Source: http://obama.senate.gov/issues/

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