Obama Urges Education Reform

From CBS News' Allison O'Keefe:

THORNTON, COLO. – Barack Obama talked about turning around the American educational system today, as he viewed the work of students at a private school here. Obama was greeted by eighth graders at the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts who showed Obama bulletin boards of artwork about their education on Africa, slavery, and the Civil War. He met a group of seniors who told him about their success in getting into college, including their scholarships and financial aid money. He met juniors who told him about their community meetings, and ended his tour visiting a classroom of eighth graders, two of whom gave a public presentation about their interests. Obama told them that he couldn't give such a presentation in eighth grade. "I probably couldn't have done it when I started running for President," he said.

Later, Obama met with students in the auditorium for a speech on his education policy. He pledged to change certain parts of No Child Left Behind and encourage innovation in education. "I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education," he said. "One where we all come together for the sake of our children's success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality – parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America."

During the question and answer period, Obama was asked about bilingual education, especially given current climate of immigration. Obama believes that everyone should be bilingual or even "trilingual." "When we as a society do a really bad job teaching foreign languages – it is costing us when it comes to being competitive in a global marketplace," he said.

He was also asked about the federal government's role in a world of charter schools and the success of private foundations on small school public education, such as the school where he was appearing. Obama immediately expressed his support for charter schools, citing the importance of "innovation at the local level." But Obama treaded lightly, saying that there are always good schools in every state. Earlier in his speech, Obama referred to the ongoing teacher talks in Denver. Dozens of teachers in two different public schools called in sick in opposition to their ongoing contract negotiations.

Despite the fact that Obama did not use McCain's name once today, a McCain spokesperson was quick to respond to Obama's speech. "While in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has never spearheaded education reforms, which despite his lofty rhetoric, demonstrates his weak leadership on an issue that is critical to the economic strength of our country," said Tucker Bounds. "It's no coincidence that a leading education magazine noted that Sen. Obama has made no significant mark on education policy."