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Education '08

Following the final presidential debate on October 15, Professor Robert Schwartz, Professor Susan Moore Johnson, and Assistant Professor Jal Mehta sat down to discuss education and the 2008 election.

During the free-flowing conversation, the faculty focused on some of the primary differences between Senator John McCain's and Senator Barack Obama's education proposals, as well as the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, teacher incentives, and how the economy will affect education. The latter issue will play, perhaps, the biggest role in education's future, they said.

"It's going to affect it at every level," Schwartz said. "We saw it happen here in Massachusetts [already]. We're entering a period where states and local districts are going to be increasingly constrained in what they can do. And the notion that they're going to be able to go to the feds for help.... Wall Street can look to the feds for a bailout but public schools cannot."

picture of faculty members

Despite this, Schwartz noted that federal funding, if available, could play a role in making an impact in areas like early childhood education, access to higher education, and teacher incentives. However, much of the education agenda depends upon which presidential nominee is elected.

"I am sort of pessimistic; I mean [Obama] said at the debate a couple weeks ago that he has three priorities: energy, health care, and education. And obviously the economy sort of trumps all three of those," Mehta said. "So I think in general, when you look at a president's to-do list, if they make it to the second one, you're excited."

Although education is often listed as a fundamental issue by voters, the faculty agreed that it usually receives less of the campaign spotlight, especially in light of issues with the economy. "I think the voters in this election will not be thinking about education," Johnson said. "I think that in education all politics is local or perhaps statewide. And so we are looking at what we imagine an Obama administration or a McCain administration would do with the particular powers and leverage and little money that might be available."

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