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.
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