Dean Announces Plan to Bolster K-12 Education, Reform No Child Left Behind ActLeading Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean visited a school in Iowa last month to announce a plan to strengthen K-12 education that was long on promises but short on specifics.Dean unveiled his plan in Davenport, Iowa, before a group of more than 100 teachers. He said his campaign had formed an advisory committee of 300 Iowa teachers to advise him and his staff on education policy.“The No Child Left Behind Act is a perfect example of government not understanding the needs of teachers, parents and students,” Dean said. “As I travel across Iowa, in nearly every community teachers, parents and school board members have told me about the problems No Child Left Behind has caused for their schools and their students.”The former governor of Vermont said he would set goals for schools’ yearly progress that do not rely only on standardized tests, include multiple measures of learning and progress in assessing success, and develop appropriate methods to assess students with disabilities and English language learners.Dean said he would be the first president in more than 25 years to fully fund special education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.He said he would provide extra resources to schools to offer smaller classes, after school programs, teacher training and other improvements that help students succeed. As part of another element of his plan, Dean would use federal funds to match state and local investments in new schools and the renovation of existing schools over a three-year period.Dean’s plan featured several elements to ensure students are able to perform at their best in the classroom. He said his administration would make sure that every child has health insurance, access to in-school nurses, immunizations and nutritional and mental health counseling. Also, his plan would provide all children up to 185 percent of the poverty line with free breakfast and lunch at school.His plan also focused on improving teacher quality at schools in low-income areas. Dean would provide national service scholarships to teachers in high-need fields who commit to work in high-need districts. In addition, teachers who meet the standards set by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and commit to teach at schools in high-poverty areas will be able to transfer their licenses from one state to another.Under Dean’s plan, the Family and Medical Leave Act would be expanded to allow parents to spend up to 24 work hours each year to attend parent-teacher conferences and other school-related activities without risking their jobs.In early November, Dean released details of his plan to improve higher education. The centerpiece of his higher education plan is a guarantee of at least $10,000 in grants and loans for use at a four-year college, a two-year college or for high-skills training (see Black Issues, Dec. 4). Recipients would pay back 10 percent of their income after college on student loan repayments. Those already in the work force would receive tax credits for future student loan payments that are in excess of 10 percent of their income.He said that although his higher education plan does not specifically offer help to minorities, it would boost opportunity for all Americans, particularly since Latinos and African Americans have higher school dropout rates and lower rates of college enrollment.
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