Mark Kirk (the Republican candidate) and Alexi Giannoulias (the Democratic candidate) are neck-in-neck in the race to fill President Obama’s former Senate seat, according to recent polls. The Green Party is also running a candidate, LeAlan Jones.
Let’s take a closer look at their education platforms, and for today’s Public School Action Tuesday, why not drop a line, make a call or send an e-mail to each campaign (Giannoulias here, Kirk use firstname.lastname@example.org or phone or mailing address here, and Jones here) with comments, suggestions, or concerns about the candidates’ approach to this critical issue.
The Giannoulias education platform ticks a lot of the same boxes as Obama’s during the presidential campaign. Alexi’s for teachers, early childhood education, and reduced class size. He likes charters but wants them to be held more accountable. He wants to reduce the emphasis on standardized tests and better support schools and teachers, but does not make it clear if/how he would move beyond the rhetoric of Obama/Duncan.
Kirk’s campaign web site offers no education platform. The On the Issues site provides a list of statements by Kirk on education and his education-related votes as a congressman. It suggests that he is a moderate on social issues such as school prayer and green schools. Mark likes local control of schools by parents and the community. He supports teachers but voted against the recent edujobs bill. Kirk got into some trouble earlier this year when he claimed that he’s influenced by his experience as a teacher, which turned out to consist of a year at a private high school in London and another as a teacher aide at a church run nursery school.
There’s a third candidate who deserves some attention, too — LeAlan Jones, the Green Party candidate. I remember him well when, as a 13-year-old, he and a friend reported on life in the Chicago projects for National Public Radio. Jones later became the youngest person to receive a Peabody Award. The education piece on his web site is brief. He wants more technical training and better schools for everyone. He favors universal preschool, better school lunches, and free internet access everywhere. He thinks the U. S. should ratify UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The time is ripe to challenge all three candidates on the education issue. One of them will be our new U. S. Senator, and will have the responsibility to make critical decisions about education along with every other issue before Congress. We have a responsibility to let them know now how they can best represent us.