The Issues: Education

CBS News continues a month-long series – titled "What Does It Mean To You?" – focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews compares what George W. Bush and John Kerry propose to do about education spending.

Kassie Anderson was one of Ohio's most gifted teachers until last month, when the state suffered a budget meltdown and she was fired.

To her principal, Kassie didn't just teach, she rescued.

"She took students that were failing in regular classes and worked with them individually to help them become successful," says principal Sam Shuman.

"They are going to miss out on their education is what they will miss," says Anderson.

Statewide, Ohio will be missing 3,000 laid-off teachers this fall. And even though the state budget crisis had been brewing for years, the teachers union also accuses the president of underfunding his program called No Child Left Behind.

"It just exacerbated the problem we already had," says Gary Allen, president of the union. Allen says there's a huge gap in what Congress authorized for No Child Left Behind and what was spent: a $614 million gap that made the state deficit worse.

"The underfunding of No Child Left Behind just magnifies that in terms of having to lay off even more staff," says Allen.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says, "The promise of No Child Left Behind has been broken."

Kerry has said that if he is elected president there won't be a funding gap from No Child Left Behind; that every education dollar promised to the states will be delivered to the states.

"I'm going to guarantee that we fund No Child Left Behind," says the Massachusetts senator.

But the Bush campaign says Kerry and the union have left the facts behind. They point out that compared to President Clinton, Mr. Bush's education spending in Ohio meant an additional $206 million.

"We've increased federal spending by 49 percent for school since I got sworn in," Mr. Bush says. "And what's changed is we're now saying, 'Show us whether a child can read and show us early.'"

In the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Superintendent George Tombaugh says that increased federal spending is real money: $1.5 million thanks to No Child Left Behind, for early and special education.

"I think that's an excellent beginning," Tombaugh says.

"So to me, to meet the very neediest students in our district, that's the type of support we need," he adds.

The president says higher standards – not just money – are the answer in education. John Kerry says he would keep the standards and spend billions more.

Still, in a state like Ohio, Kerry could spend every nickel and not have enough to rehire Kassie Anderson.