Election 2004: Evaluating Your Candidates

Editor’s note: As part of our continued effort to get educators involved with the upcoming election, the Center for Digital Education (online at www.centerdigitaled.com) and T.H.E. Journal have compiled the following information to help you evaluate your candidates.

The topic of education always enters the political fray during campaign season. A recent survey from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) suggests that declining parent opinion about the nation’s public schools will make education a significant election issue this fall. The survey states that the percentage of parents who gave U.S. public schools an “A” has dropped from 8% in 2001 to 2% today, while 20% of parents gave schools a “B,” down from 35%. The majority of parents (45%, up from 33% in 2001) gave schools a “C.” Technology is an important component of most jobs and of everyday life for a majority of Americans. Thus, candidates should know that their constituents believe technology is an integral part of education. Following are some questions to consider asking prospective candidates running for all levels of office:

• What do you consider to be the skills needed to create a workforce to sustain economic viability for the region and the nation? What policies would you support to ensure that these skills are among those students will know and be able to perform? How will you ensure future teachers are able to teach these skills? If the candidate needs help with this question, direct him/her to www.21stcenturyskills.org or www.nctet.org.

• How do you stay informed about what is happening in colleges and universities, as well as in schools?

• For presidential and congressional candidates: The Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will be considered in the next session of Congress. What policies will you support in this act, and what role do you see technology playing in the act?

• For state and local candidates: The percentage of total state spending on higher education has diminished significantly in the last 25 years, with tuition often making up the difference. How will you ensure that every student who wants to go to college will be able to go?

• What will you do to ensure that faculty and teachers have the appropriate knowledge and tools to teach all students in the 21st century?

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.