McCain’s ‘New Reforms’ To Education: Cut Head Start, Cut College Aid, Dodge Fully Funding No Child Left Behind

McCain GraduationToday, John McCain delivered a speech focusing on education to the NAACP:

After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn’t just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children.

McCain isn’t wrong, our education system needs serious changes. But the draconian spending cuts needed to pay for his Bush-style tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, along with his past voting record, suggest that his “new reforms” aren’t what America’s parents and students are looking for. For low-income black students, the results could be disastrous.

Here’s a run-down:

Cut Funding To Head Start: Nearly 280,000 African American children are enrolled in Head Start programs that have been shown to improve school performance in early grades and return up to $7 to society for every $1 invested. Sen. McCain consistently voted against funding for Head Start programs and has no plan for expanding access to Pre-K or early childhood education. His plan for a government spending freeze would allow inflation to cut funding for Head Start by over $968 million. Furthermore, the massive deficits his tax plan would rack up could increase pressure for across-the-board cuts that would slash Head Start’s budget by an additional $1.6 billion, and drop over 170,000 children from the rolls.

Slash College Aid: Approximately 45 percent of African Americans who attend four-year colleges rely on Pell Grants to pay for school (compared to around 16 percent of whites). But Sen. McCain voted with the Bush Administration to cut the value of Pell Grants, and has consistently voted against expanding access or increasing their value. Furthermore, his plan for a discretionary spending freeze
would cut $1.7 billion from community learning centers, and $3.7 billion from career and technical education grants.

Dodge Fully Funding No Child Left Behind: McCain’s campaign has been evasive on whether or not they would fully fund No Child Left Behind in order to increase resources and accountability in failing schools. Lisa Graham Keegan, his education advisor, has said that McCain believes “NCLB is adequately funded,” while other advisers like Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Carly Fiorina insist that McCain intends to “fully fund” the program. Here’s what we do know: McCain voted against fully funding No Child Left Behind in the past, and his plan for a discretionary spending freeze would allow inflation to erode even the current inadequate funding levels.

More on McCain’s education record here.

UPDATE: The Washington Independent catches McCain telling an audience member in Cincinnati that he would “be glad to fully fund” Head Start programs, despite the fact that his proposed funding freeze would effectively cut $968 million from these programs.