The Early Word: Education and Reform

The Obama campaign is framing a day of contrasts with the Republican ticket on the issue of public education as Senator Barack Obama prepares to deliver a speech about how to "modernize and strengthen our education system."

According to the campaign, Senator Obama will propose doubling funding for "responsible" charter schools and address the hiring and firing of teachers. "We can't settle for schools filled with poor teachers," Mr. Obama plans to say at an event in Riverside, Ohio on Tuesday.

The Obama team is also rolling out a new television ad this morning meant to be a broadside against Senator John McCain's record on education. Here are the key lines from the script:

"Barack Obama understands what it takes to make America number one in education again. John McCain doesn't understand," the ad says. "John McCain voted to cut education funding. Against accountability standards. He even proposed abolishing the Department of Education. And John McCain's economic plan gives two hundred billion more to special interests while taking money away from public schools."

The Republican National Committee issued a response this morning to the new ad and the speech Mr. Obama intends to deliver in Ohio:

"What has Barack Obama ever done for education reform other than give speeches about it? Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies, while Senator McCain wants schools to answer to parents and students," Alex Conant, a spokesman for the R.N.C. said in a statement. "Unlike Obama, McCain will shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work."

Here are excerpts of Mr. Obama's remarks on education policy:

Giving our parents real choices about where to send their kids to school also means showing the same kind of leadership at the national level that I did in Illinois when I passed a law to double the number of charter schools in Chicago. That is why as President, I'll double the funding for responsible charter schools. Now, I know you've had a tough time with for-profit charter schools here in Ohio. That is why I'll work with Governor Strickland to hold for-profit charter schools accountable, and I'll work with all our nation's governors to hold all our charter schools accountable. Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow. And charters that aren't will get shut down. And we'll help ensure that more of our kids have access to quality afterschool and summer school and extended school days for students who need it – because if they can do that in China, we can do that right here in the United States of America.

And when our teachers succeed in making a real difference in our children's lives, we should reward them for it by finding new ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. We can do this. From Prince George County in Maryland to Denver, Colorado, we're seeing teachers and school boards coming together to design performance pay plans.

The Palin Factor The Washington Post has an extensive review today of reports on Governor Palin's billing to the state of Alaska for per diem expenses while she stayed at her home, along with expenses filed for her husband's travel and some of her children.

And The Wall Street Journal is the latest to weigh in by fact-checking the McCain campaign's assertions as to whether vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin supported the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska:

She endorsed the multimillion dollar project during her gubernatorial race in 2006. And while she did take part in stopping the project after it became a national scandal, she did not return the federal money. She just allocated it elsewhere.

"We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge," Gov. Palin said in August 2006, according to the local newspaper, "and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative." The bridge would have linked Ketchikan to the airport on Gravina Island. Travelers from Ketchikan (pop. 7,500) now rely on ferries.

PolitiFact at the St. Petersburg Times called this a "Full Flop." And FactCheck.org, of the Annenberg School of Public Policy has examined several claims about Governor Palin's record in Alaska, including whether she ever really explored banning books in the library or cut funds for special needs education. The headline? Sliming Palin.

Under the now familiar Wasilla dateline, the Journal's Michael M. Phillips also has a report about how in Alaska, the personal and the political often collide: "Allies of Republican presidential nominee John McCain like to point out that his running mate is the governor of the largest state in the union. But at times, Alaska seems more like a small town, run by folks with overlapping professional, political and personal ties that can be difficult to untangle."

(Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller takes note of how Ms. Palin's addition to the ticket is changing Senator McCain's body language — "Hug your running mate, kiss your wife" — appears to be the unspoken rule as the G.O.P. hopefuls campaign across the country. Ms. Bumiller describes the "McCain-Palin embrace" as "businesslike, to the point."

Politico's Mike Allen previews Gov. Palin's plans for later this week. On Thursday Sept. 11, she will speak at her son Track's Army deployment ceremony and then spend part of the next two days speaking with Charlie Gibson of ABC News who "will get extensive, repeated access to Palin throughout her first trip home since becoming the nominee."

Campaign Cash The Times's Michael Luo and Jeff Zeleny detect "signs of concern" coming from the Obama campaign over how quickly it is filling its war chest "as early fund-raising totals have suggested that Mr. Obama's decision to bypass public financing may not necessarily afford him the commanding financing advantage over Senator John McCain that many had originally predicted," they write.

And David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, held a briefing for the McCain traveling press corps yesterday, according to The Politico. One note to come out of it? It looks like the Obama campaign is shifting resources out of Georgia, one of the states where it had hoped to mount a sizable voter registration effort.

On the Trail The Times's Patrick Healy reports that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was stumping for Mr. Obama on Monday, though she avoided any "heavy fire" aimed at Gov. Palin.

The Politico notes that Senators Obama and Biden struck economic themes on the trail in Michigan and Iowa yesterday.

The Washington Post's Michael D. Shear and Peter Slevin take a closer look at how tax policy is being discussed as the candidates speak with voters around the country:

McCain's approach is a familiar one for Republicans, who have for years promised to lower taxes and accused Democrats of wanting to raise them. "All you have got to do is appeal to the common sense of the voters. They get it," said Mark Salter, one of McCain's top aides. "Go out there and state your case. It's no more nuanced or complicated that that."

In Flint, Mich., where unemployment is twice the national average, Obama on Monday promised a cut to 95 percent of taxpayers. He said retirees earning less than $50,000 would pay no taxes on Social Security payments, and he urged Congress to pass a second stimulus package "so that people would have a little more money in their pockets."

Down Ballot Several states hold primaries today. Congressional Quarterly offers a full breakdown of what to watch for.

Campaign Trail Roundup

* Senator Barack Obama delivers a speech on education in Riverside, Ohio and holds an event later in Lebanon, Virginia.

* Senator Joe Biden holds an town hall meeting in Columbia, Mo. and a community gathering in St. Louis.

* Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin hold a "McCain Street USA" event in Lebanon, Ohio and a rally in Lancaster, Pa.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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