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Obama Offers New Schools Plan, Funded by Iraq Withdrawal

DAYTON, Ohio — Sen. Barack Obama gave a rousing, thoughtful and detailed address on education today, telling about 750 supporters in a high school here that his administration will make American students more competitive in a global marketplace, fully fund No Child Left Behind, spike the share of high school students enrolled in advanced placement course — including schools in rural and poor neighborhoods — and double federal funding for charter schools.

“Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test,” Obama said, to a smattering of applause. “Let’s finally help our teachers and principals develop a curriculum and assessments that teach our kids to become more than just good test-takers!”

Obama was most eloquent while imagining what American public schools could look like in the future. Channeling Jimmy Wales, he floated a more open source approach to learning.

“Imagine a future,” the Democratic nominee said, where students “don’t just do book reports but design PowerPoint presentations; where they don’t just write papers but build websites; where research isn’t done just by taking a book out of the library but by emailing experts in the field, and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it.”

After summarizing his entire education plan, Obama conceded that it “sounds like a lot.” Yet, he told voters, all the funding and accountability is doable.

“We can do it all. We can increase the number of students taking college-level courses; expand innovation and school choice; invest in the schools of tomorrow, and put a quality teacher in every classroom – all for the cost of just a few days in Iraq. And we’ll pay for that cost by carefully winding down the war in Iraq; by ending no-bid contracts, and by eliminating wasteful spending,” he added, to some of the loudest applause of the morning.

The crowd, made up of supporters, local volunteers and about 25 students from an AP government class, chanted “Obama,” “Yes, We Can” and, in one spontaneous riff, “No More Pitbulls!” — a reference to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, also campaigning in Ohio today.

A new poll has Obama trailing by seven points in Ohio, suggesting a post-convention bounce for McCain here. Though both campaigns consider the state a toss-up.

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