Public education promises to be an important component of any substantive discussion in the debates leading up to November's presidential election. But what -- if anything -- will really change when either Barack Obama or John McCain becomes president on January 20? Realistically, not much -- at least not right away. The new president's influence is likely to come subtly over the next few years. So we wondered how do the candidates differ on public education, if they differ at all. Here's a quick guide to how McCain and Obama feel about some of the hot buttons in public education.
Obama: Calls the No Child Left Behind Act "a good start" and would revise rather than scrap it. Plans for increased funding.
McCain: Described NCLB as "a major milestone" but has advocated for more flexibility in measuring progress in English-language learners and students with disabilities.
Technology in Schools
Obama: Encourages installation of broadband so that students have access to the Internet. Believes that teachers should be trained and that students in poorer areas should have increased access to tech.
McCain: Supports more funding for technology-based education such as online learning and virtual classrooms, but would leave the program specifics up to principals, superintendents, and school board members.
Closing the Achieve- ment Gap
Obama: Supports summer-learning opportunities for disadvantaged youth so they can improve in their academic careers.
McCain: Believes schools should offer after-hours tutoring, in which retired persons could volunteer. Supports online tutoring plus federal certification of all tutoring programs.
Obama: Has proposed a $10 billion early-childhood- education plan that includes increased funding to sustain Head Start and subsidize universal preschool.
McCain: Would boost funding for Head Start as a resource for early-childhood enrichment.
Obama: Math and science would be the core focus, with additional emphasis on technology. Also encourages "creative classes" that encourage the development of critical-thinking skills and alternative methods of problem solving.
McCain: Would more strongly emphasize math, science, and English skills. Has yet to release his full education plan.
Obama: Does not support school vouchers and has instead focused on reforming public schools.
McCain: Believes parents should have the right to choose what school their child attends and that federal funds should be available to help low-income families with private schools or homeschooling.
Obama: Favors merit-pay bonuses in certain instances, such as when a classroom's academic performance improves or when a teacher mentors other teachers.
McCain: Supports a market-based system in which merit pay is given to teachers who achieve significant improvements in student performance compared to other schools, or work in hard-to-staff schools, and encourages staff development and new graduate recruitment.
Shari Wargo is a former editorial assistant at Edutopia.