Good News for Presidential Candidates: The Public Supports a Wide Range of Education Reforms

Article excerpt

Put foreign policy first, theorist Niccolo Machiavelli once advised his 16th-century Florentine prince. It's not bad advice for 21st-century presidential candidates, either. National security, not education, will be the overriding issue in the 2008 campaign, even if the Gates and Broad Foundations succeed with Strong American Schools, their $60 million quest to place education front and center.

Still, schools will not be missing from the political agenda altogether. So long as the economy perks along and no one wants to cut Social Security or raise taxes on more than a few, then health care and education will be the top domestic issues. Clearly, no presidential issues kit can afford to be without an education page.

Too often candidates let vested interests and insistent advocates provide the content for that document. Many Democrats, for example, are currying favor with union interests by insisting on less student testing and more federal funding. "While the children are getting good at filling in all those little bubbles, what exactly are they really learning?" Senator Hillary Clinton asked delegates at a meeting of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association late last May. "How much creativity are we losing? How much of our children's passion is being killed?" Meanwhile, one is hearing in Republican circles a great deal about getting Washington off the states' backs.

That may make political sense in the early days of a campaign when the opinions of the few count more than those of the many. Eventually, though, the next president must win support from a broad cross-section of voters across the country.

On education matters, a heap of valuable information can be found in the poll results presented in this issue. Shrewd candidates will scrutinize the hundreds of numbers set forth on pages 13 to 26 to extract the political truths buried within. …


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