Editorial

EDITORIAL: The Seattle Times, September 29, 2004
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2002048667&zsection_id=268448410&slug=educed29&date=20040929

Kerry on Education: Teeth and Funding

Nearly one-third of America's young people fail to graduate from high school. Washington state's recently released dropout figures show an overall decline of a single percentage point, but the rate remains high in districts statewide.

What's needed is a national strategy such as that offered by Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Kerry has singled out the dropout rate as America's biggest crisis and pledges to turn 1 million potential dropouts into graduates over the next five years.

Kerry proposes an education trust fund to expand tutoring and mentoring, and also to break up large underperforming schools. He would add teeth to federal enforcement rules that require full disclosure and accountability of schools for graduation rates.

Kerry suggests states revoke the driver's licenses of students who drop out of school. This may work or it may take transportation away from those who need it most. It does, however, set an expectation of strict intervention strategies.

In the Senate, Kerry voted for the Republican-led education-reform efforts that became the No Child Left Behind law. Kerry remains true to the law's principles of aggressive accountability and strong expectations. But unlike the Bush administration, Kerry says he will fully fund the federal mandates.

Reform efforts in this state are paying off in higher test scores and lowering the achievement gap between minority and white students. Kerry would spur those efforts with $10 billion per year spending on teacher hiring and class-size reduction.

Kerry proposes $5,000 pay hikes to teachers who serve in high-need areas, or who mentor or seek career development and training opportunities. New teachers would undergo rigorous testing to ensure they meet the higher expectations of education reform, and speed would be added to the process used to remove bad teachers from their jobs.

Kerry supports school choice, including charter schools. He proposes a $24.8 billion bond measure to help states and school districts repair and build modern schools, with a portion dedicated to creating charter-school buildings.

It's a clear vision that offers the best approach to ongoing education reform.

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