July 31, 2008

The George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown

173 days left

"The United States of America is engaged in a war against an extremist group of folks."

McLean, Virginia, 2006

July 28, 2008

NPR: McCain, Obama Offer Dueling Education Plans

All Things Considered, July 28, 2008 · Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is proposing a laundry list of educational benefits that would reach from birth to college. His rival, Republican John McCain, plans to focus on enabling local educational initiatives and expanding virtual learning.

Although both Obama and McCain have criticized the No Child Left Behind Act, neither proposes scrapping it altogether. While Obama regularly bashes the landmark education law for being underfunded, he is not planning to drop the measure's reliance on standardized tests, which is its most controversial provision.

McCain would offer vouchers to children in schools that fail to meet federal standards, so they can attend private schools. Obama opposes vouchers.

Both major teachers' unions have endorsed Obama, despite the fact that he has endorsed so-called "performance pay" — bonuses for successful teachers — something many unions have resisted. Obama would let teachers negotiate how to dole out these bonuses. McCain, who also endorses merit pay, would let principals decide how to distribute the money — something unions roundly reject.

Listen to NPR's feature on the candidates and where they stand on education.

Click here for a written version of the article on the candidates and their plans on education in text form.

Check out NPR's coverage profiling major differences and the few similarities between the candidates in their on-going Election '08 series.


Check out how the candidates square up on Russian Disarmament and the Housing Crisis.


Check out how the candidates diverge on a variety of issues: Abortion/Reproductive Freedom, Homeland Security Spending, Nuclear Power, Iraq War Policies, Terror Policies, Impact of Off Shore Drilling, Mideast Policy, Iran, National Intelligence, Next Step on Guantanamo, the Pentagon Under a New President, Have the Candidates Flip-Flopped

July 27, 2008

Candidates Differ on Breadth of Education Plans

Comparing Candidates' Plans

comparing the candidates' policies
Gabriel Bouys/Emmanuel Dunand
AFP/Getty Images

Both candidates plan to maintain full federal funding for schools, keep the No Child Left Behind Act intact and provide more money for needy college students and merit pay for teachers. Here's where their plans differ.

McCain: He supports school vouchers, home schooling, charter schools and any program that allows parents to chose the school their child will attend.

Obama:Obama also wants to give parents more options when they pick a school for their children, but he would limit those choices to public charter schools. He does not support vouchers for children to attend private and parochial schools. He is the first presidential candidate ever to propose accrediting all schools of education that train teachers.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama delivers the commencement speech.
Spencer Platt

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama waves to students as he delivers the commencement address at Wesleyan University on May 25, 2008, in Middletown. Getty Images

McCain speaks about education during a campaign forum.
Mario Tama

Arizona Sen. John McCain speaks at a McCain Exchange Forum on March 8, 2007, in New York City. McCain touched on topics including the war in Iraq, education and defense spending. Getty Images

Candidates' Key Advisers


  • Linda Darling Hammond: She is a professor at Stanford with the School Redesign Network. Hammond is most widely known for her work at Columbia Teachers College, long-considered an incubator for big, liberal, left-leaning education proposals.
  • Michael Johnston: He works with the New York City-based organization New Leaders for New Schools. His organization is touted as one of the most innovative collections of education entrepeneurs who have made urban school reform their top goal.
  • Andrew Rotherham: He is a former adviser to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and is widely respected in education circles. He is also the co-founder of the Education Sector, a liberal think tank in Washington. Rotherham is considered by some as a possible nominee for U.S. secretary of education in an Obama administration.

  • McCain:

  • Lisa Graham Keegan: She is a former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona and a close friend to McCain. She advised him during his first presidential run in 2000 and was on the short list to become President Bush's secretary of education. If McCain is elected, Keegan will be the leading candidate for that post.
  • Phil Handy: He is a former chairman of Florida's State Board of Education.
  • Jane Swift: Former governor of Massachusetts.
  • Gene Hickok: Former U.S. undersecretary of education in President George W. Bush's administration.
  • Hannah Skandera: Former California undersecretary of education.

  • NPR.org, June 27, 2008 · Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has delivered four major speeches on education. Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain unveiled the details of his educational agenda during a speech in mid-July before the NAACP.

    The two candidates differ on everything from public school funding to college tuition to the No Child Left Behind Act. Below, NPR lays out the two candidates' education plans side by side.

    Funding Public Education

    The McCain campaign has said that Arizona senator intends to keep the full federal funding for schools; he just wants to give more of that money to parents for them to send their kids to the public, private or religious schools of their choice. He has also said that he would like to commit a total of $750 million to develop "virtual schools" and curriculums, allowing students to take online classes in science, math and foreign languages.

    Obama has said that his education proposals would cost about $18 billion and would be funded by trimming NASA's budget and auctioning surplus federal properties, among other measures. But most of the Illinois senator's education proposals are so costly that they would require Congress to approve additional new spending. He says he wants to make "a historic commitment" to education, because he wants to give every American child the same chances he had.

    Rethinking the No Child Left Behind Act

    Both McCain and Obama plan to keep in place the No Child Left Behind Act, although they both want to tweak the law.

    McCain voted for the 2001 law, which has given the federal government unprecedented authority over testing, academic standards and the rating of the nation's public schools. However, he has joined critics — Democrats and Republicans alike — who say the law needs major fixes. Unlike conservatives and some members of Congress, McCain does not want to scrap the law entirely. His advisers say instead, he wants to provide more tutoring services for students who are behind before he tackles NCLB.

    Obama was not in the U.S. Senate when Congress voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, but he supported it in the Illinois state legislature. His biggest criticism of the law is that it has been ineffective and inadequately funded. He also has said it relies too heavily on poorly designed tests to gauge progress in reading and math at the expense of a well-rounded education. Obama says he doesn't want to get rid of testing, but he does want to work more closely with governors to come up with better written tests that help teachers pinpoint students' weaknesses.

    School Choice: Vouchers, Charters and Home Schooling

    McCain supports vouchers, home schooling, charter schools and generally any policy that helps parents choose the private or public school that they want their children to attend. School choice, McCain argues, will create market forces that will spur competition among schools, not just for students but for the best teachers. He has also said that he would expand federally funded vouchers called Opportunity Scholarships that would let more parents pick the school of their choice.

    Obama also wants to give parents more options when they pick a school for their children, but he would limit those choices to public charter schools. He does not support vouchers for children to attend private and parochial schools.

    Keeping College Costs Low

    Both McCain and Obama support providing more money for needy college students, as well as the recent efforts by Congress and the Bush administration to shore up the student loan program, which has been hit hard by the credit crunch.

    Obama would like to introduce a new tax credit to ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is free for most students, in exchange for 100 hours of community service. This plan would cost about $10 billion a year. Obama says he can save billions of dollars by overhauling the federal student loan program, and creating a system that bypasses banks and private lenders in favor of having the U.S. Education Department run a direct lending program.

    He also wants to double the size of the Peace Corps and expand Ameri-Corp and other national service programs.

    McCain wants to make college more affordable by supporting a big increase in Pell Grants that Congress approved for needy students in 2007. McCain also backed the expansion of low-interest loans for middle-class families who are struggling to keep up with college tuition increases.

    Training Teachers

    Obama would require all schools of education to be accredited and then figure out which colleges are doing the best job of training teachers. Obama is the first presidential candidate ever to make such a proposal. His proposal borrows many ideas from several commissions that promote the national certification of teachers, more mentoring programs for first-year teachers, and merit pay for the best teachers.

    McCain has said that he supports merit pay for teachers, including giving bonuses to teachers who work in the most troubled schools. He also wants to recruit more top teachers who have graduated in the top 25 percent of their class, or who participated in an "alternative teacher recruitment program," such as Teach for America.

    July 26, 2008

    Bush foes rail at hearing, skirt impeachment

    Washington -- It wasn't an impeachment hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan insisted from his dais. Instead, Conyers announced his committee was conducting a hearing on executive power and its constitutional limitations.

    But impeachment -- the process Congress can use to forcibly remove presidents from office -- was constantly mentioned during six hours of testimony on Friday.

    And Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich was delighted.

    Kucinich, the loudest impeachment backer in Congress, was the hearing's first witness. He described devastation wrought by the Iraq war and listed untrue claims he accused the Bush administration of making before invading that Iraq harbored terrorists and was developing nuclear weapons as justification for congressional action against Bush.

    Check out the YouTube (c) video of the hearing.

    July 14, 2008

    Congressional Record Honors Paul Mann through our friend, the "Lion of the Senate", the Honorable Tom Harkin

    Congressional Record of the United States of America
    Proceedings and Debates of the 110th Congress, Second Session
    Washington, Tuesday, June 24, 2008
    Volume 154, Number 105


    Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, in early July, when nearly 9,000 educators are in Washington for the National Education Association's annual Representative Assembly, they will posthumously honor one of Iowa's most dedicated and respected teachers, Paul Mann. Lola Mann, Paul's wife of 38 years, will accept the Applegate-Dorros Award on behalf of her late husband at NEA's annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on July 2.

    Applegate-Dorros Award is given each year to an individual who has made lasting contributions to the cause of international understanding, and who has encouraged young people to study the world and work for world peace. Over a long and distinguished career spanning nearly four decades as a teacher with the Des Moines public school system, Paul both lived and taught those ideals. He shaped the thinking of generations of students, and he was active on the national state as a long-time leader of NEA's Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus.

    I do not believe that democracy is a spectator sport, and neither did Paul. As his wife Lola said, "he felt strongly that he was place on this earth for a purpose...that he was here to help make the world a better place." He challenged his colleagues and students alike to get involved in campaigns and in the broader political process. His own passion for politics and engagement was infectious.

    Paul stood up for social justice and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Just as Gandhi counseled that "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," Paul lived a life that embodied the progressive ideals that he advocated.

    Paul Mann was born in
    Onawa, IA on March 12, 1947, graduated from Central Missouri State University in 1969, and earned a master's in public administration from Drake University in 1981. He began teaching in Des Moines in 1969 and was an energetic, beloved teacher right up until his sudden passing in September of 2006. At the time of his death, he was a teacher of world civilization and government at Central Academy, the magnet school for Des Moines' gifted and talented middle- and high-school students.

    As a teacher,
    Paul was a consummate professional who had a deep personal commitment to ensuring that every child receives a high-quality public education. this commitment lead to his activism and leadership withing the Des Moines Education Association, including 8 years as president. He served in various leadership positions at the local, State and national levels within the National Education Association. He was also active in local and State politics.

    I have always
    appreciated what Lee Iococca said about teachers. "In a completely rational society," he said, "the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else." Fortunately, in Iowa, so many of our best and brightest do go into teaching. And Paul Mann was one of the very finest.

    To honor his activism in the cause of world peace and understanding, the Paul Mann Memorial School has
    been established in Chiapas, Mexico. In addition, he has another living legacy: countless former students who are living the noble ideals that he taught in his classroom and embodied in his life.

    Paul Mann lived a life of constant activism and thoughtful action both in and out of the classroom. His life is one worthy of recognition and I commend his family and all of his form colleagues for doing their part in honoring him with the
    Applegate-Dorros Award.

    Join Amnesty International in Battling Online Governmental Censorship


    Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information.

    The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression … learn more

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    An Amnesty International delegation handed in a petition of 50,000 signatures to this pledge in November 2006 at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Athens, before an audience of governments and companies from across the world.

    The IGF process continues and so does Amnesty's fight for freedom of expression online. Irrepressible.info will continue to collect signatures to the pledge and use them to campaign against internet repression.

    The more people who sign up, the louder our voice. Please read and sign our pledge.

    July 12, 2008

    Honoring Paul Mann at the NEA Human & Civil Rights Dinner in Washington, DC

    Iowa Delegates, family and P&J Friends attended NEA's Human and Civil Rights Award Dinner on July 2, 2008. It was a fantastic night to be a member of the Association. Inspiring, motivated, kind and passionate educational leaders were honored for their service to humanity, social justice, equality and making the world a better place.

    It was an honor to watch Lola at the microphone. I'll bet you'll reach the same conclusion. Here are the clips honoring the Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding recipient for 2008, our friend Paul Mann.

    NEA President Reg Weaver on the War in Iraq.

    In his final keynote address to NEA's annual convention, the NEA president talks about the disastrous War in Iraq that has taken lives and opportunity from America's youth.

    The NEA president urged support for a resolution on Iraqi teachers and workers at Education International's World Congress. Mr. Weaver cites the Association's Representative Assembly vote calling for an exit strategy for U.S. forces from Iraq.

    July 9, 2008

    Day laborer organizer ‘served the people’

    Alejandro Abarca, leader of day laborers in New Jersey, died last week in Mexico. His death at the young age of 32 marked the untimely end of a life devoted to the struggle of the oppressed.

    Like millions of Mexicans, Alejandro Abarca was forced to migrate to the United States. He settled in the Borough of Freehold, New Jersey, where a sizable number of Mexican workers tried to survive as day laborers. Abarca immediately embroiled himself in working for the dignity and rights of Freehold’s Mexican workers. Most of them had been forced from their homeland by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Based on the greedy profit motive of U.S. transnational corporations, NAFTA effectively drove the Mexican farms out of business. Some of these families moved to Freehold to work and to live in peace.

    But there was no peace. Abarca said, Freehold “officials did not show any respect” for the immigrant population. He said officials profiled all Latin@s, “assuming that all dark-skinned Latin@ people are in the United States illegally.” (New Jersey News) So he organized the Workers Committee for Progress and Social Welfare, which called for an immediate end to harassment and intimidation and for the right to be respected. (NJ News)

    Abarca became a leader of Casa Freehold, which was organized to defend the rights of Latin@s in their homes, at work and in the streets. He devoted his life to a simple concept: “Serve the people.”

    For Latin@s, life in Freehold was difficult. The Borough of Freehold was settled by the English in 1683 who stole the land from the Lenne Lenape tribe. Descendents of the original settlers show open racism against residents speaking Spanish at Borough of Freehold town meetings. Representing 30 percent of Freehold’s population, the Latin@ community has faced official harassment in their homes, in the schools and in their freedom to assemble.

    When men, seeking work as day laborers, gathered at a “muster zone” on a road outside the main part of town, local police hounded them.To defend the workers’ rights, Abarca organized with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Foundation, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, International Action Center and the Workers Committee for Progress and Social Welfare. The PRLDEF won the case guaranteeing the right of Freehold day laborers to seek work in public places.

    Cognizant of the difficulty Mexicans have in establishing bank accounts and other financial and legal activities, Abarca brought the Mexican Consulate from New York to Freehold to issue “matricula consular” identity papers to hundreds of people in the borough. (Asbury Park Press) Organizing with his community for his community, Abarca also spearheaded a struggle to win day laborers $10 an hour for their work. In 2006, when the national May 1 organizing began, Abarca brought the Freehold workers into the national struggle for immigrant and workers rights.

    Speaking at a 2005 anti-Iraq war rally in New York, he said, “In Latin America, we understand occupation, and we know that the transnational monopolies have been occupying us for years, but the moment is coming when the people will tolerate this occupation no longer.” (La Ventana, March 21, 2005)

    One year ago he suffered a severe accident and returned to his native country to undergo a series of operations. “Probably he died of complications from one of these operations,” said Rita Dentino, who worked with him. “Alejandro made Casa Freehold into a broader organization against the war, against racism, for women’s reproductive rights. His life was dedicated to social justice.”

    Alejandro Abarca Presente!