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Education Reporter

John Kerry on Education
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As the November 2004 presidential election approaches, the Education Reporter has compiled the following list of Democratic nominee John Kerry's positions on various educational issues:

Preschool: Senator Kerry has said he wants to make preschool universal, but in the interest of keeping deficits under control, has backed away from a specific proposal.

K-12: Kerry proposes a massive10-year $200 billion entitlement to the states for educational spending, to be financed by raising taxes. Ideas for how to spend the money include teacher and tutor training, dropout prevention measures, smaller high schools, mentoring for middle school students, pairing college students with poorly performing middle schools, and paying teachers more to work in disadvantaged schools and to teach math or science.

After-school: Kerry proposes expanding the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program from $1 billion to $2.5 billion and shifting the focus from exclusively academic benefits to include values and decision-making skills.

Higher education: Kerry has advocated expanding tuition tax credits for most households from $1,500 to $2,500 and making them available for four years instead of two. More recently, he has proposed to award $4,000 in public funds to every college student who signs up for a period of national service. (Sources: Brookings Working Paper 6-23-04 at brookings.edu; nytimes.com, 5-4-04; nationalreview.com, 5-6-04 and 7-26-04; St. Louis Post Dispatch, 9-3-04)

In 1998 Kerry said, "We must end teacher tenure as we now know it" and urged that every public school become "essentially a charter school." He even expressed openness to government-funded vouchers for private school tuition, in an interview with the New Republic. (townhall.com, 6-29-04)

No such talk has emerged on the campaign trail this year, when Kerry has instead pushed "fully funding education, no questions asked." Not coincidentally, Kerry has received the endorsements of the two major teachers unions.

In sum, candidate Kerry wants to spend vastly more federal money on education without requiring structural reform — on the heels of unprecedented federal spending on education by the Bush Administration. Yet an analysis by the Wall Street Journal found "virtually no link between spending and performance" in schools. (7-30-04)

Between 1997 and 2002, state and local governments increased K-12 spending by 39%, according to a study released in late July by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. After adjusting for inflation and growth in enrollment, real spending went up nearly 17%, and went up in every state. The percentage increase in spending in each state showed no correlation with reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Journal concluded.

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