Column: Did McCain miss the mark on education?

Despite calling education "the civil rights issue of the 21st century" during the final presidential debate Oct. 10, Sen. John McCain also said: "There’s no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America after a long and difficult and terrible struggle." It was a telling remark that might suggest how out-of-touch McCain is when it comes to American schools, writes Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley. "In what America does John McCain live?" Riley writes. "He must have missed the 2002 study done by the Civil Rights Project showing a trend toward resegregation that is pushing schools toward levels of disparity that rival those of 25 years ago–and that poor children still learn in schools that are grossly inferior to schools in wealthier neighborhoods. He can’t possibly know about the lack of books and equipment in urban schools that are staples in wealthier suburban districts. And I bet he isn’t aware that many urban districts across America graduate fewer than half of the students who enter as freshmen." Riley continued: "Straight away, the elder senator contradicted himself on his own point about equal access when he asked, ‘But what is the advantage, in a low-income area, of sending a child to a failed school and that being your only choice?’ If all American children had equal access to good schools, then no child would have a failed school as his or her sole option. The reform of the American education system is a mission that the next president must not abandon, no matter what else a faltering economy forces him to drop. Obama, while cleaving to his expressed goal to reform education, didn’t challenge McCain on the education question, except to say rightly that vouchers will not fix the nation’s public schools, only help a minority of its school children…"

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