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Obama's education agenda

Barack Obama vowed Tuesday to double funds for charter schools, pay teachers based on performance and replace those not up to the job, embracing education proposals normally more popular with Republican candidates.

The Democratic presidential nominee said both parties must work together to improve education in a pitch to independent voters in this swing state, where education reform has been the focus of a longtime partisan battle. It was the first of two days Obama was spending on education policy.

Days after Republican candidate John McCain talked up school choice at the GOP convention, Obama proposed to give parents more options, too – but not with a federal voucher program to pay for private schools, something McCain has supported. Instead, Obama seeks to create an array of new public schools.

Despite McCain's rhetoric, he is not proposing a federal voucher plan. He proposes only to expand the voucher program in Washington, D.C.

The federal government spends about $200 million a year on charter schools, independently run institutions that receive public money. Obama's proposal would take that up to over $400 million.

“I'll work with all our nation's governors to hold all our charter schools accountable,” Obama told an audience that included many educators and members of teachers unions. “Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow. And charters that aren't will get shut down. I want experimentation, but I also want accountability.”

While teachers unions typically oppose performance-based merit pay, Obama embraces the idea, as well as demands that teachers who don't meet standards be removed. His campaign said performance could be judged by peer review, student testing, classroom evaluations or other means.

Obama also proposes a new $500 million matching fund for technology in the classroom.

A new Obama TV ad contends McCain voted to cut education funding and against accountability standards.

A new McCain ad says Obama's only education accomplishment is “legislation to teach comprehensive sex education” to kindergartners. It raises the question “learning about sex before learning to read?” and calls Obama “wrong for your family.”

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