Obama Vows To Double Charter-School Funding

Sen. Barack Obama promised to double funding for charter schools and pay teachers based on performance. At an event in Riverside, Ohio, he also criticized President Bush's plan to withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour on the campaign trail. Both presidential hopefuls were in Ohio today trying to pick up votes in a crucial swing state this November. Barack Obama focused on education, outlining a school reform plan that includes performance-based pay for teachers. Obama was also critical of President Bush's announcement today that he is drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq. NPR's Debbie Elliot reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOT: Senator Obama said the president's plan falls short and does not solve the central problem in Iraq, the need for political reconciliation.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we'll continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences. So the president's talk of return on success is a new name for continuing the same strategic mistakes that have dominated our foreign policy for over five years.

ELLIOT: Obama's comments came at a Dayton area-high school where he earlier gave what the campaign billed as a major policy speech. He started with a shout out to the educators in the room.

Senator OBAMA: We appreciate what you do each and every day because there's no job that is more important.

ELLIOT: Obama said candidates always say education is a top priority but don't deliver. He says the same tired debates have crippled progress and left schools and parents to fend for themselves. And he said his opponent was part of the problem.

Senator OBAMA: John McCain doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that our success as a nation depends on our success in education and our success in public education. That's something I do understand.

(Soundbite applause)

ELLIOT: Obama outlined an ambitious string of education proposals, more investment in early childhood education, a 4,000 dollar college tax credit for middle-class students who agree to public service, committing resources to No Child Left Behind and increasing school competition by funding charter schools. He also tackled a thorny issue of teacher merit, promising to recruit top talent, start performance-based pay and...

Senator OBAMA: And one of the things that we are going to have to do, and this is something that I know sometimes is difficult, but teachers who are doing a poor job, they've got to get extra support. But if they don't improve, then they have to be replaced.

ELLIOT: Some in the audience were skeptical about the teacher-pay proposal. Marla Bell works for the Ohio Education Association.

Ms. MARLA BELL (Labor Relations Consultant, Ohio Education Association): You know, that is just so difficult to measure, to create. We've done that, been there, and it just - it's a very difficult measure.

ELLIOT: Nonetheless, she'll vote for Obama. And one of the biggest reasons, she says, is how Ohio's economy has suffered.

Ms. BELL: Well, you know, my husband and I have lived in Ohio our entire lives. And our families are here. But when our children graduate from high school, we don't know that there's a need to remain in Ohio. It's almost - it feels like it's a dying state.

ELLIOT: Debbi Elliot, NPR News, Dayton, Ohio.

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