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Obama Pushes Charter Schools in Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio — It’s a gray, rainy morning in central Ohio, and both presidential nominees are trying to brighten up the mood with visits here today.

Sen. Barack Obama is making his eighth visit to this key swing state since he clinched the Democratic nomination, At a local school, he is unveiling a new education plan to help students compete in a “global economy.” About 30 miles away, Sen. John McCain is holding a rally outside a restaurant in Lebanon with Gov. Sarah Palin, who has greatly increased his crowds recently.

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/picture-13-291x300.pngObama’s aides dished the first preview of his plan to a local paper, The Plain Dealer, which leads today with a measured article about how Obama would boost federal spending on charter schools by $200 million.

To hammer home this policy contrast, Obama released a new ad blasting McCain for fighting education funding and trying to abolish the Dept. of Education.

“John McCain doesn’t understand,” intones the narrator, echoing Obama’s stump speech, which argues it’s not that McCain is insensitive to working-class problems — he just doesn’t “get” them.

Today, standing before five American flags at Stebbins High school, Obama applied this critique to education: “After three decades of indifference on education, do you really believe that John McCain is going to make a difference now?”

Obama also outlined his record on education:

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 Gov. 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…. Charters that aren’t will get shut down.

And we’ll help ensure that more of our kids have access to quality after-school and summer school, and extended school days for students who need it.

Obama is also proposing an “innovative schools fund,” that would provide federal funding for school districts to experiment with a range of school forms — not only charter schools, but also nonprofit academies, career-training schools and Montessoris, as his policy advisers explained in a media conference call on Tuesday.

The federal government plays only a small role in charter-school funding, of course, so even Obama’s proposed increase would still constitute a sliver of overall funding.

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