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KERRY OFFERS DETAILS ON EDUCATION AGENDA: Plan Focuses on Graduation Rates and Highly Qualified Teachers

"We can't afford as a nation to lose as many children as we're losing today, because they're dropping out of school, and nobody's going after them to find out what the problem is or making certain that there's some kind of alternative school setting for them to learn," Kerry said.

Earlier this month, John Kerry outlined a comprehensive plan to improve schools throughout the country. On May 4, he unveiled a new plan to increase the number of high school graduates by one million over the next five years. Two days later, he presented a “new bargain for America’s children and teachers” that will “offer teachers more,” but will “ask for more in return.”

To reduce high school dropout rates, Kerry proposed $50 million a year for tutors and teacher training to improve literacy for middle and high school students who lack basic skills and struggle to meet high standards. Another initiative suggests breaking up troubled large high schools into career academies, alternative schools, and other innovative schools. He would build smaller schools and help to create learning environments where students can feel more at home. To fund these efforts, Kerry proposed increasing funding for the Smaller Learning Communities program by $150 million a year. To encourage students to stay in school, Kerry’s plan would support state legislation that denies a driver’s license to students who drop out of high school.

Kerry’s “bargain” with America’s teachers includes a federal investment of $30 billion over ten years for better pay and preparation for the nation’s teachers, but also requires higher standards from teachers and greater rewards for results from states and districts. If implemented, Kerry said his initiative would recruit or retain 500,000 teachers over the next four years.

As part of his plan to offer better pay, preparation, and support, Kerry proposed a pay raise of at least $5,000 for teachers who teach in high-needs schools and those who teach in hard-to-staff subjects such as math and science. To draw more people into the teaching profession, he would establish a new teacher corps for recent college graduates and pair veteran teachers with teachers who are new to the profession. In return, Kerry would require rigorous tests for all new teachers and invest in a national initiative to help determine the right standards for these tests. He would also require states to develop “fast, fair procedures” for improving or replacing teachers who do not perform at the level expected of them. On the other end of the spectrum, he would offer increased pay and responsibility to teachers who excel.

“We can’t afford as a nation to lose as many children as we’re losing today, because they’re dropping out of school, and nobody’s going after them to find out what the problem is or making certain that there’s some kind of alternative school setting for them to learn,” Kerry said.

The Presidential Candidates Now Updated


For additional analysis and a side-by-side comparison of proposals from the two major presidential candidates as they relate to secondary school education, read The Presidential Candidates: Proposals to Increase High School Graduation Rates. The Alliance for Excellent Education will continually update this brief to reflect new proposals by the candidates as they are announced. The document is available at


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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.