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NEA President Dennis Van Roekel: Fundamental question unanswered heading into tonight's debate between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain

WASHINGTON - October 07, 2008 -

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will attend the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Van Roekel is there to listen to Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain talk  about their visions for America's working families.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

"This debate comes at a critical time for the American people. We're in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"As educators, NEA members also are witnessing firsthand the effects of the economic and housing crisis. Schools are seeing record numbers of students who are homeless or qualify for free school meals. Rising fuel costs are forcing school districts to take drastic measures, including cutting all field trips and shortening the school week.

"Thus, the fundamental question on voters' minds as they watch tonight's debate is, 'Which candidate will focus on laying out real plans to address the issues that keep voters up at night, and which candidate will simply promise more of the same failed policies of the Bush administration, or even yet, just change the subject?'

"In their last debate, Sen. McCain refused to distance himself from the failed policies of the Bush administration. He failed to grasp the direct link between a robust economy and a 21st century education system. He made it clear that he would put business interests ahead of working families, promising to tax health care benefits for the first time in history. He didn't even say 'middle class' once during the entire debate.

"In contrast, Sen. Obama has shown that he understands that all roads to economic security and prosperity go through our public schools, promising to transform public schools to keep America competitive in this global economy. Sen. Obama's solution is to provide affordable health care for everyone who wants it. And he is bent on turning the page on the failed policies of the past eight years."

SPECIAL NOTE: NEA President Dennis Van Roekel is available for media interviews immediately following the debate. To secure an interview with President Van Roekel, or for comments, please contact Sara Robertson at (202) 230-8978.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823