When I originally decided to write this analysis, I wanted to do in-depth, heavily researched look at each individual policy proposal. Unfortunately, I am not an education policy expert or authority figure, and I have not had the time to do the extensive research on this that I would have liked to (I did do some research though). I hope you will forgive me, and I promise that in the future (assuming this blog is still around at the next election), I will do a better, more in depth analysis.
Basically, there isn't that much different between the candidates on education, but Obama is slightly better on the issues. Both believe in charter schools, but McCain falls more in line with the school choice crowd. Both believe in merit pay, but Obama believes more in professional development. Both like No Child Left Behind and believe greater measurement of progress, but Obama actually wants to put more funding into implementation. Beyond that, they are mostly the same on education. The only issue that there seems to be a real difference on is early childhood education. McCain believes some money should go to certain "Centers of Excellence" for the better performing Head Start Programs (rather than helping the entire Head Start program). Obama wants to put $10 billion towards voluntary, universal preschool. When it comes to education, Obama has my vote (he has my vote anyways, but only a little when it comes to education).
Ultimately, both candidates want to put more funding into education (although Obama wants to put a little more). But here is the sad truth the way I see it: whoever is the next President of the United States, education will not get the amount nearly the attention by the federal government as it should.
Before 9/11, it looked like education was going to be the top domestic priority, maybe the top overall priority, in the country (granted, with a bad piece of legislation). After 9/11, we had to adjust out priorities more towards security and foreign policy (and rightly so at the time). But since then, we haven't gone back, and our public schools have not gotten the kind of attention it deserves form the federal government. And it doesn't look like it will anytime soon. Not as long as we have a growing deficit, a devastating tax cut for the upper class, and two wars (one of which should have never been started in the first place).
The only way our government can ever really help education in the United States is to realign our priorities. This means realigning the way we spend money (i.e. get out of Iraq, cut the military budget in a reasonable manner, get rid of the Bush tax cuts). More of our money should be geared not just towards funding and reforming reduction, but funding and reforming other programs (which thus carries over to education). I have written about this before, and will continue to write about it in the future. To borrow from James Carville a little: It's Society Stupid (not just education). Until we figure that out, our education system is destined to continue to fail us.
For more on education positions by the candidates visit Obama's website, McCain's website, the New York Times, and CNN.