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Posted by on Aug 2, 2008 in Politics | 19 comments

Media Largely Ignores McCain’s Remarks on Education at Urban League

I was reading the full text of John McCain’s speech to the Urban League today, but when I went to look for the media coverage of it, what I found was, shall we say, disappointing. The primary buzz in both newspapers and television was about the “cool” reception he received for some remarks concerning the policy proposals of his opponent, Senator Barack Obama. (Though the majority of reports were generous enough to note that Senator McCain received a respectful standing ovation from the attendees at both the beginning and end of his remarks.)

I will grant you that the specific audience was not tailored to McCain from a political perspective. The Urban League is largely an African-American organization and nobody – including McCain’s team – is under the impression that one speech is suddenly going to swing 50% of the nation’s black voters to his banner. We could also reasonably expect that Obama would receive a rousing welcome for his remarks. (Which he did, and his speech was both well crafted and skillfully delivered.)

What was most disappointing to me, though, was the lack of coverage of a large portion of McCain’s speech on a very pressing domestic issue – education. The audience was a good fit, given their motivation to assist lower income persons to move into the economic mainstream. And McCain’s remarks were very much on point. He talked about the need for options by parents with students in troubled or failing public school districts. He spoke persuasively about programs in place, both in Washington, DC and New Orleans, which provide such choices and opportunities and the benefits they are providing to parents and children. Current education policies have clearly been failing families, and the proof is in front of you all around the country. (Though never more obvious than in so many of our inner city school districts.)

I would ask you to take a moment and read the full portion of the speech which the media was not covering and judge for yourself.

I will provide the full text below. Read, digest and discuss at your leisure. There are some hard truths here, but they are worth consideration.

Nowhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn’t just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children.

Just ask the families in New Orleans who will soon have the chance to remove their sons and daughters from failing schools, and enroll them instead in a school-choice scholarship program. That program in Louisiana was proposed by Democratic state legislators and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. Just three years after Katrina, they are bringing real hope to poor neighborhoods, and showing how much can be achieved when both parties work together for real reform. Or ask parents in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. whether they want more choices in education. The District’s Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 boys and girls from families with an average income of 23,000 dollars a year. And more than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. What they all have in common is the desire to get their kids into a better school.

Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last month, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We’ve heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public school fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.

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