John McCain finally had something to say about public education. He wants vouchers—or does he? And he hates unions. That’s for sure.
He also endorsed the Klein/Sharpton so-called, Education Equality Project and chided Barack Obama for so far refusing to sign on. He even tried to play Obama off against more conservative black politicians like J.C. Watts, Corey Booker and Harold Ford.
That’s pretty much what he had to offer to the Urban League convention yesterday where, according to the AP wire story, “he drew gasps and grumbles during a feisty question-and-answer session” after attacking Obama for “defer[ring] to teachers unions, “instead of committing to real reform.” He drew more gasps when he held up former N.Y. Mayor Rudi Giuliani as his model crime fighter and repeated his claim that "the best equal opportunity employer in the country is the U.S. military."
Up until now, McCain has been reluctant to mention the V-word during the campaign, because of the unpopularity of school vouchers. He, like Bush and the Republican leadership, have always favored school vouchers to support private schools, but have been reluctant to push for a federal voucher policy and instead have only used vouchers as a wedge issue (like flag burning or gay marriage). But under pressure from ultra-conservatives (see David Brooks recent NYT column), egged on by the Gates/Broad Ed in ’08 campaign, and hoping to get even single-digit support from black voters, McCain finally came out of hiding on vouchers and a few other ed policy issues.
Again from AP:
Although McCain touts the idea of school choice, he is not proposing a federal private school voucher plan as have President Bush and other voucher advocates. McCain does propose to expand a voucher program in the District of Columbia, his advisers saying he no longer seeks a nationwide voucher program because the No Child Left Behind law has helped to give parents and students more choices.
As for affirmative action, McCain was just as (un)forthright:
McCain, in response to a question, said affirmative action was "in the eye of the beholder." He did not mention that he supports an anti-affirmative action referendum on the ballot in Arizona…He also, “apologized anew for voting against the enactment of a federal holiday honoring the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1983.