(CNSNews.com) - The National Education Association has launched a $50 million campaign to put Sen. Barack Obama in the White House, but nevertheless it is praising Sen. John McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate -- partly because she opposed school vouchers when she ran for governor.
Sen. John McCain supports school voucher programs.
"The 3.2 million members of the National Education Association are pleasantly surprised by Senator John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to join his ticket as the Republican nominee for vice president,” the labor union said in a news release on Friday, Aug. 29, the day McCain made his surprise announcement.
"While she is only in her second year as Alaska's Governor, she has thus far shown herself to be a supporter of children and public education,” the NEA said.
"In her less than two years as the state's chief executive officer, she was able to increase per-pupil education spending, and she is opposed to sending public money to support private schools through political schemes like vouchers.”
When Palin ran for governor, she spoke about education issues, including vouchers, with the NEA’s Alaska chapter.
On Sept. 9, 2006, the NEA-Alaska asked Palin if she supported the use of vouchers, tax credits, or other programs that provide public money for students to attend private or religious schools.
“No,” Palin said. “It is unconstitutional and it is as simple as that.” She also said she would not support amending the Alaska Constitution.
Palin told NEA-Alaska she wants to give parents as much choice and as many options as possible for educating their children, but “not public funding via vouchers.” Instead, she stressed the need for vocational education, especially in “resource rich” Alaska where “so many of our students are going to go on to vo-tech careers.”
Sen. John McCain, however, does support school vouchers. He says if schools don’t improve, students should be able to change schools.
“John McCain believes parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children,” his Web site says.
In fact, McCain wants to expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a program that offers scholarships of up to $7,500 for public school students to attend participating D.C. private schools.
“In our nation's capital, we have seen the dramatic benefits of giving parents control of money and choices,” McCain says.
“The Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 students from families with an average income of $23,000 a year. More than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. The budget for the Opportunity Scholarships is currently $13 million. John McCain believes that this extremely successful program should expand to at least $20 million benefiting nearly a thousand more families.”
Sen. Barack Obama does not mention the word “vouchers” in his educational plan. In the 15 pages he devotes to his “pre-K to grade 12” education plan, he mentions the word “school choice” only once -- in a subhead called “School-family contracts.”
“The Obama plan will encourage schools and parents to work together to establish a school-family contract laying out expectations for student attendance, behavior, and homework. These contracts would be provided to families in their native language whenpossible and would include information on tutoring, academic support, and public school choice options for students,” the Obama Web site says.