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October 8th, 2008
02:48 PM ET

Candidates' math-science ideas face limits

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/08/art.vert.debate.both2.jpg width=292 height=320]Sean Cavanagh
Education Week

John McCain and Barack Obama have voiced concerns about U.S. students’ middling performance in mathematics and science, echoing the views of many business executives and scientists. But fiscal realities may limit what they could do to address the issue as president.

Both candidates agree that improving the math and science teaching corps will be a key to meeting those challenges, and they’ve proposed new federal financial incentives aimed at luring more people into the profession and encouraging them to stick with it.

Sen. Obama’s math and science proposals are more ambitious, and almost certainly would be more costly, several observers said. The Illinois Democrat has called for an estimated $18 billion in new federal spending on preschool and K-12 programs in all subjects and areas, while Sen. McCain has proposed freezing most discretionary spending until he could conduct a full review of all federal programs. ("U.S. Education Budget Roiled by Financial Crisis," Sept. 29, 2008.)

Sen. Obama calls for creating 40,000 “teaching service scholarships,” worth up to $25,000 each, for those willing to teach in high-need schools and subjects, such as math and science. He says teachers would also benefit from a tax credit of $4,000 for college, and from his support for teacher-training “residency” programs, one of which is located in his home city of Chicago.

Sen. McCain, meanwhile, has said he would channel a portion of federal teacher-training funding toward bonuses for teachers who agreed to work in math or science and in hard-to-staff schools. The Arizona Republican also pledges to boost support for online education programs that focus on math and science.

“We need to provide more incentives and ability for math, science, and engineering students,” Sen. McCain said in an Aug. 20 campaign speech in Las Cruces, N.M. “We are falling behind in that area. Everybody knows that..."

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Editor's Note: Teachers College Presents “Education and the Next President”
Tune in Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m. Eastern Time, for this live webcast of a debate between Linda Darling-Hammond, education adviser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education adviser to Republican nominee John McCain. Don’t miss this important election event. Register free here.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Education • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sean Cavanagh
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    We badly need to provide a better education in math and science than what we are doing today. We as a nation are lagging behind other countries on these fields and we will lose our technological and innovative edge as well as more jobs if we do not correct this.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 8, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  2. Mary

    Sean, being a science teacher and working with some really great teachers, throwing money at this problem is not going to solve it. The problem runs much deeper that that. The way testing is approached, parent education, discipline, and quality teachers are what is needed. I feel that all of that can be addresses with minimum cost but a lot of dedication or work. I think that the politicians think that if they give so much money to a project its fixed. Not True.

    October 8, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  3. Betty

    I think Palin is a very smart person and I think John McCain is best for our President.McCain want take our country to socialism like Obama is wanting to do.He wants to change our Pledge Allegiance,National Anthem, our flag,our presidential seal,he even had the flag removed from his plane,SO YOU CAN SAY THIS MAN DOESN"T LIKE AMERICA VERY WELL -HUM

    October 8, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  4. Sharon from Indy

    Sean:
    I would like to say that the federal government could do more for the educational system in the U.S. with incentatives and bonuses for teachers, but the reality of education is that it is a local problem.

    Local schools are basically subsidized by local property taxes. If the property taxes don't meet the needs of the schools, many times the state steps in to help.

    The sad fact is that the majority of citizens don't even know their members of Congress, the state legislation or even local school boards. These are the people that will make changes to schools and hold school administrations accountable.

    I don't believe in placing all my eggs into the presidential basket. I want to know what my city councilperson and local school superintendent are doing. That is what my life is about!

    October 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Papasan in Arizona

    The mention of EDUCATION in the same sentence as McCain's name is sad joke. McCain picks a VP that can barely speak coherently to us, and resorts to speech that is at a 3rd grade learning level, has yet to form an original thought in her Bobble Head, wouldn't know a periodical if it hit her in the butt! If these two idiots get to the White House we should expect the further decline of EDUCATION in this Great Country! But what am I saying, McCain likes the American People under educated, then it's all free for the taking! Wake up America McCain is a Racist and a Bigot!

    October 8, 2008 at 3:11 pm |