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Education on the Ballot

The next 14 months will be pivotal for education. Not only is there a presidential race next year, but control of Congress is also at stake at a time when the federal No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization.

But let’s not forget about the states—the laboratories of education reform. This year, the nation’s first universal voucher program will be voted on in Utah. Voters in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana will elect governors. And 2008 will be an even busier year for states.

Here, we’ll talk about these important campaigns and elections, what education promises the federal and state-level candidates are making, and why these elections matter for public schools.

Where should the conversation start? Probably with what schools and political candidates want more of:

Money.

Although the presidential candidates are paying little attention to education issues, they should. In addition to all the obvious reasons, here’s another one: Individuals who work in or represent education, either nonprofit or for-profit, have already contributed more than $4 million to the $265 million raised by the presidential candidates, according to the user-friendly Web site www.opensecrets.org. This doesn’t count labor unions, which are tallied in different category.

The biggest education beneficiary? Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois at $1.5 million. Fellow Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is further behind at $900,000. Coming in third is a Republican—former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, at $448,000.

Education campaign contributions will grow tremendously if the 2004 presidential election was any indication. According to opensecrets.org, donations from the field of education ranked 8th in total campaign giving compared with other industries. Educators donated more to the 2004 presidential candidates than donors from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries did.


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