An education-advocacy group will begin airing ads this week seeking to nudge Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama on ways to improve the standing of U.S. schools compared with other industrialized nations, the Associated Press reports. Strong American Schools, a nonpartisan group supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, wants the presidential candidates to focus on the condition of U.S. education at a time when the economy and gas prices are attracting the most public attention. The $5 million in television, radio, print, and online ads in seven states begin July 14. They feature a boy who hoists a line of international flags up a flagpole–with the stars and stripes at the bottom. "If jobs move to countries like Finland and South Korea," the narrator says, "our children’s opportunities dry up and so does our economy." The ads will air in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Ads also will run in Minnesota closer to the Republican convention. "This campaign is trying to stoke interest and create intensity in key battleground states," said Marc Lampkin, executive director of the advocacy group Strong American Schools. "What we want people to do is realize that American schools, both individually and collectively, are failing to provide our children with the skills they need to be successful."

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