November 1, 2000

Prof. Critiques Candidates

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This year’s presidential candidates may emphasize educational issues in their campaigns, but in reality the president exercises little direct power over educational policies, said Prof. E. W. Kelley, government, during an informal lecture yesterday in Uris Hall.

The seminar-style discussion, which was sponsored by the Cornell Economics Society (CES), focused on policies in education. It was the second in a series of four discussions centering on economic issues in the presidential election.

Kelley discussed George W. Bush’s and Al Gore’s education proposals. He then examined the limited role of the President in educational policy.

“In terms of education, there are clear differences and disturbing similarities between the two presidential candidates,” Kelley said.

Among the similarities, Kelley cited both candidates’ willingness to endorse national testing programs that assess educational standards. He stated that both candidates believe the best way to improve education is through more testing.

“Testing has one great virtue; it’s cheap,” Kelley remarked.

Emphasizing the relative ambiguity in both candidates’ plans, Kelley stated that there is only a small disparity among the Gore and Bush educational proposals.

Kelley drew attention to one notable exception. Gore plans to spend more on building stronger classrooms by hiring 100,000 new teachers, he said, while Bush favors a school voucher program.

To some, the distinctions between the two major party proposals remain similar to those seen during previous elections.

“It seems like both candidates are standing behind their party’s platforms,” said Atanas Tzeneu ’03. “They are bringing up old ideas and it’s the same rhetoric as 10 years ago.”

Kelley pointed out that because Article 2 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate funds to the states, the President has very little authority in respect to education.

“President’s don’t do much about education, and what they say doesn’t really matter,” Kelley said.

If elected, he said, “Both candidates will need a lot of help to advance their policies.”

Kelley concluded, “If you care about education, I would worry more about who is in the state legislature and [in the] governor’s seat. I wouldn’t really worry about the president.”

CES President Peggy Kong ’01 took note of Kelley’s point.

“I thought the president would have more power in affecting educational policy,” Kong said. “I think Prof. Kelley feels [education] isn’t a very important election issue.”

The Cornell Economics Society is a student-run undergraduate organization which meets weekly to discuss current economic issues. The group’s next lecture, “The Legacy of the American President,” will be held on Nov. 14 at 4:45 p.m. in Uris Hall Room 494.

Archived article by Ben Hubbard