Senator Barack Obama, responding in part to new competition for the women’s vote from Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, outlined more details of his plan to overhaul education yesterday, pledging to double federal funding for public charter schools, spend $500 million to upgrade school technology, and award merit pay for teachers, including higher salaries for math and science instructors, reports the Boston Globe. Speaking at Stebbins High School near Dayton, Ohio, Obama offered a dismal picture of the state of American education, warning that U.S. students are lagging behind Asian counterparts in advanced engineering degrees, that jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of skilled applicants, and that elementary school pupils are receiving too little science education to compete in the global economy. "That kind of future is economically untenable for America," Obama said. "It is morally unacceptable for our children. And it is not who we are as a nation." Some of what Obama detailed yesterday he has proposed before, but he laid out a series of new proposals that his campaign estimates would cost about $1 billion. These initiatives, combined with earlier proposals he offered on early education and K-12 schools, bring the price tag of Obama’s education plan to about $19 billion, which his campaign says can be covered by cutting federal spending, including slashing the amount of congressional earmarks. Obama also sprinkled in new, harsh criticism of his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, charging that McCain had "marched with the ideologues in his party" for almost 30 years in opposing efforts to hire more teachers and expand the Head Start program for preschoolers. "This is important to understand," Obama said. "In those three decades, he has not done one thing to truly improve the quality of public education in our country. Not one real proposal or law or initiative. Nothing."…

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