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Obama dishes out tough talk on education

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  • Barack Obama details education plan; wants to double funding for charter schools
  • Obama says John McCain hasn't done "one thing" to improve public education
  • McCain campaign says Obama making misleading claims
  • McCain, Sarah Palin draw crowd of more than 5,000 in Ohio, campaign estimates
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(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday detailed his plan to strengthen the education system and charged that the Bush administration's "failure to act has put our nation in jeopardy."

"Our kids and our country can't afford four more years of neglect and indifference. At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy," Obama said at a campaign event in Riverside, Ohio.

Obama also charged that Sen. John McCain hasn't done "one thing" to improve public education.

Obama's speech came as his campaign released an ad that said McCain's economic plan would divert funds from public education. McCain's campaign called Obama's allegations a "desperate attack."

Obama said he wants to see more investments in early childhood education, which he said would better train students in reading and math, and increase the likelihood that students would pursue higher education.

The senator from Illinois also proposed a $4,000 tax credit to middle-class college students who agree to a year of public service. See where the candidates stand on education

Obama said he supports the original goals of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind program, but he said teachers must have better resources in order to live up to the program's promise to educate every child.

"We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised and give our states the resources they need; and, finally, meet our commitment to special education," he said.

Obama also said teachers should play a role in developing a plan to raise their pay based on performance.

The Democratic candidate called for the creation of an "Innovative Schools Fund" to help school districts develop what the campaign calls a "portfolio of successful public school types," including charters and nonprofit schools.

Obama said parents need more choice when it comes to picking a school, and he vowed to double the funding for "responsible" charter schools.

"Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow. And charters that aren't will get shut down," he said.

The ad the Obama campaign released Tuesday linked education policy to economics and painted McCain as "out of touch and behind the learning curve."

McCain's campaign said the ad was completely untrue.

"Without a single achievement on education reform, Barack Obama has resorted to a desperate attack with absolutely no basis in fact. John McCain has proposed new education reforms to empower parents and students while reducing the influence of the unions and government bureaucrats that support Barack Obama's candidacy," spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

"Nothing that John McCain has proposed would reduce funding for public schools, but in fact he has pledged additional funds to improve education -- and Barack Obama knows it."

McCain's education plan is touted as "Excellence, Choice and Competition in American Education." It involves recruiting teachers who graduate in the top of their class, providing schools with better resources, giving parents more choice among schools, providing bonuses for teachers who go to underperforming areas and cracking down on wasteful spending, among other things.

The senator from Arizona detailed his education policy in July.

McCain on Tuesday held a rally with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Lebanon, Ohio. Ohio is a key battleground state, and no Republican has won the White House without winning it. Video Watch more on the campaign efforts in battleground states »

The two have been calling themselves the "original mavericks" as they campaign together in swing states.

"I've fought corruption. It didn't matter whether the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. I fought people on spending on things you neither need more want," McCain said before an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 in Lebanon.

Palin praised McCain for supporting troops in Iraq, saying "McCain refused to break faith with the troops who have brought victory within sight. And as the mother of one of those troops, he's exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief."

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush announced a plan to withdraw about 8,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by February and to beef up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Video Watch Bush's announcement »

Obama has repeatedly called for a timetable for troop withdrawal, while McCain supports a withdrawal based on conditions on the ground.

In response to the president's announcement, Obama said, "In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences."

Obama said he was glad the president planned to send more troops to Afghanistan, but said "his plan comes up short -- it is not enough troops, and not enough resources, with not enough urgency."


The McCain campaign issued a statement Tuesday saying the troop withdrawal shows "what success in our efforts there can look like."

"American troops are returning home in success and with honor because of the improvements in security that followed implementation of the surge strategy. Today's announcement makes clear that the planned withdrawal of up to 8,000 troops is based, as it should be, on conditions on the ground and the advice of our military commanders in the field," the campaign said.

All About John McCainBarack ObamaU.S. Presidential Election

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