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The Fort Collins Coloradoan - Obama Touts Education Plan at Thornton High School

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Location: Thornton, CO

The Fort Collins Coloradoan - Obama Touts Education Plan at Thornton High School

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said he wants to fix the "broken promises" of America's education system and took aim at the heralded No Child Left Behind Act on Wednesday while visiting a Thornton high school.

Speaking before an invited guest list numbering in the hundreds, Obama led a Town Hall forum at the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts after taking a tour of the high school.

The Illinois Democrat talked mostly about education reform during his hour-long appearance and said big changes are needed to No Child Left Behind if students are to succeed.

"We have to provide the funding we were promised, give our states the resources they need, and we have to meet the commitment to special education," Obama said to applause. "We can meet high standards without forcing students and teachers to spend most of the school year preparing for a single, high-stakes standardized test."

Obama's Colorado visit, the second this year, came one day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain visited Denver to give a speech on foreign policy.

It also came as Colorado Democratic Chair Pat Waak, a super delegate, announced Wednesday morning that she will give her support to Obama at the national convention Aug. 25-28 in Denver.

Obama spoke at a high-poverty school that recently made national news when it broke its nearly 1,000 students into seven "small schools," each with a different education emphasis. This year, one of the seven small schools is graduating 44 students, all of whom have been accepted to college.

Citing innovative approaches to education similar to those used at Mesa in Thornton, Obama said academic accountability and standardized testing are necessary but called for more academic learning in areas like the arts.

"We need to look no further than (right here) to see that accountability does not have to come at the expense of a well-rounded education," Obama said. "The tests our children should take should support learning, not just accounting."

In a conference call with reporters, former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said Obama's plans for education and other national areas of interest are off-base and not what America needs.

"In the last day, we've seen the lack of experience of Sen. Obama," Owens said. "It's odd that just four years ago, he was an Illinois state legislator, and I think that inexperience is going to be shown more and more as we get to the general election campaign."

Owens also said electing Obama during an economic slowdown will mean higher taxes at a time when Americans are struggling.

"When we're in a tough economic time, it's not the time to raise taxes. Sen. Obama has said he will raise capital gains taxes, (and) 500,000 Coloradans filed capital gains and paid capital gains in the last filing period. That means that many, many Colorado businesses ... many Coloradans will pay higher taxes."

Obama said the American tax policy needs to be changed, especially a corporate tax policy that is filled with "loopholes" including incentives that encourage outsourcing jobs.

"Our economy right now for all practical purposes is in a recession. We may not meet the technical criteria exactly, but anybody who walks around and talks to folks knows businesses are scaling back, jobs are being lost and people are feeling squeezed," Obama said. "But we still have extraordinary strengths in our economy; we just have to build on those strengths."

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