Hillary Clinton has received the backing of the 1.4 million-strong American Federation of Teachers, the biggest union endorsement so far for any presidential candidate. The AFT gave its endorsement much earlier in this campaign than it did in the previous presidential election cycle, when the union waited until February 2004 to support John Kerry.
Barack Obama, despite garnering big applause at this summer's National Education Association convention, largely submarined his chances of winning the teachers' support by endorsing merit pay tied to students' standardized test scores--a concept abhorrent to many teachers.
The 2008 Democrat candidates--particularly John Edwards and Bill Richardson--have spent a great deal of time discussing education. Many of their ideas for reform are compelling.
All of the main Democrat contenders seem to agree that No Child Left Behind needs to be drastically re-worked, although that's hardly a controversial position to take on one of the most heavily criticized laws in the country.
No Republican candidate even tried to earn American teachers' endorsement-- they all refused the union's invitation for a discourse.
Senator Clinton has made education a priority throughout her career. Her positions are comprehensive and nuanced, but here's a brief, bulleted list of some of her education talking points:
- Support teachers and stem the teacher attrition crisis with higher pay, more peer consulting & more recognition. Provide scholarships for teachers who work in urban schools.
-Against performance pay for individual teachers, but for performance incentives for entire schools.
- More after-school programs, smaller class sizes.
- Expand and improve Head Start pre-school program.
- Against privatizing schools with vouchers and for-profit corporations.
- Increase access to higher education with bigger grants and better student loan rates.
Dan Brown is the author of the new teacher memoir "The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle."