USA Today's Richard Whitmire turns in a provocative thumbsucker at Politico on John McCain, his (still to be fleshed out) education platform, and his top education aide (and former rodeo star) Lisa Graham Keegan. To the dismay of many education writers (not to mention Ed in '08), Whitmire reports that "education will be a back burner issue for McCain, lagging far behind terrorism and the economy, a notion not disputed by his aides."
That disappoints Whitmire, too, who offers up his own suggestions for what the candidate might embrace:
Recent victories on the reform agenda side, such as high-flying charters and the astonishing success of Teach for America, have captured the imagination of young, independent-minded Democrats. If the Democratic nominee fails to tack back to the center, these voters may be open to a switch. Pushing hard on charters, for example, could add up to a reform platform akin to Bush's "I'll bring you Texas" accountability, which fleshed out his "compassionate conservative" credentials.
Yes, that would be great, and a nice complement to some of the ideas Checker Finn and I laid out in the Weekly Standard a month ago. But everyone's kidding themselves if they think McCain is suddenly going to try to be an education president. The voters are burned out on the issue, with No Child Left Behind fatigue running deep, and McCain doesn't need to use education in the same way that President Bush did: to prove that he's a different kind of Republican. Voters already know that McCain is a different kind of Republican (thanks to his stances on immigration, campaign finance, global warming, etc.). Sure, he'll put forward some school reform ideas, and Keegan as education secretary would be swell, but I have a hunch that the education issue is going to need to spend some time in the wilderness--at the federal level at least--before it's ready for primetime again.