Obama vs. McCain – Education

By Vidya Pradhan


Investment in quality education and a vision for increasing the competitiveness of future American workers is a crucial long-term issue that often gets forgotten in the immediacy of political campaigning. (Though one education legislation has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A ridiculous and deceptive ad by the McCain campaign accused Obama of creating legislation to teach sex to kindergarteners. The facts? Obama supported, not sponsored, a bill whose purpose was primarily to make kids aware of the dangers of sexual predators.)


Here are the two candidates’ views on education.


Barack Obama


Official Position( highlights)


  • A comprehensive “Zero to Five” plan that provides for the early care and education of children.
  • Expand Early Head Start and Head Start.
  • Reform No Child Left Behind by improving funding, supporting schools that need improvement and improving the assessment guidelines for schools.
  • Make math and science education a national priority.
  • Expand summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged kids
  • Support college outreach programs to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare for college.
  • Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America's Teachers through Scholarship programs and incentive programs

  • Make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, among other things.

Voting Record

  • Sponsored( with Mike Honda) the Enhancing STEM( science, technology,engineering, mathematics) Act
  • Sponsored Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act(S2111).
  • Sponsored Back to School: Improving Standards for Nutrition and Physical Education in Schools Act of 2007(S2066).
  • First Senate bill: increase Pell Grant from $4,050 to $5,100. (Aug 2007)
  • Sponsored legislations that recruit and reward good teachers. (Sep 2004)
  • Voted YES on $52M for "21st century community learning centers". (Oct 2005)
  • Voted YES on $5B for grants to local educational agencies. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted YES on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education. (Mar 2005)



On his overall philosophy on education -“I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education. One where we all come together for the sake of our children's success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality – parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.” May 2008

On the intersection of religion and science – “I do believe in evolution. I don't think that is incompatible with Christian faith. Just as I don't think science generally is incompatible with Christian faith. There are those who suggest that if you have a scientific bent of mind, then somehow you should reject religion. And I fundamentally disagree with that. In fact, the more I learn about the world, the more I know about science, the more I'm amazed about the mystery of this planet and this universe. And it strengthens my faith as opposed to weakens it.” April, 2008.


John McCain


Official Position( highlights)


  • Will focus federal resources on ensuring that the neediest children have access to a range of high quality early education programs.
  • Will Build On The Lessons Of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
  • Encourage Alternative Certification Methods That Open The Door For Highly Motivated Teachers To Enter The Field.
  • Provide Bonuses For Teachers Who Locate In Underperforming Schools And Demonstrate Strong Leadership As Measured By Student Improvement.
  • Will Ensure Children Struggling To Meet State Standards Will Have Immediate Access To High Quality Tutoring Programs. These may be private providers who are federally certified.
  • Will target $500 million in current federal funds to build new virtual schools and support development of online course offerings for students.
  • Believes charters, homeschooling and vouchers are key to success.


Voting Record


  • No new education bills sponsored.
  • Voted NO on $52M for "21st century community learning centers". (Oct 2005)
  • Voted NO on $5B for grants to
    local educational agencies. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted NO on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors. (May 2001)
  • Voted NO on funding student testing instead of private tutors. (May 2001)
  • Voted NO on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction. (Apr 2001)
  • Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools. (May 1999)
  • Voted YES on allowing more flexibility in federal school rules. (Mar 1999)
  • Voted YES on education savings accounts. (Jun 1998)
  • Voted YES on school vouchers in DC. (Sep 1997)
  • Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996)
  • Voted YES on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. (Jul 1994)
  • Voted NO on national education standards. (Feb 1994)




On creationism being taught in public schools – “I think that every American should be exposed to all theories. There's no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was in what we are today. And I do believe that we are unique, and I believe that God loves us. But I also believe that all of our children in school can be taught different views on different issues. I leave the curricula up to the school boards.” June 2007


Voting records from Ontheissues.org







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