College Board to candidates: make education a priority

WASHINGTON: The College Board is stepping into the political arena for the first time in its 112-year history with the "Don't Forget Ed" campaign.

WASHINGTON: The College Board is stepping into the political arena for the first time in its 112-year history with the “Don't Forget Ed” campaign.

The education nonprofit wants to create a national movement to make education a more prominent issue in the 2012 presidential election and key congressional campaigns. It is calling on major candidates to discuss and debate their plans for education reform.

“We see that education is absolutely critical to the strength of the nation,” said Peter Kauffmann, VP of communications at the College Board. “Other issues like the economy, national security, and healthcare are all built on the foundation of education. If that collapses, everything goes with it.”

Aided by marcomms agency SS+K, the group kicked off the campaign on Wednesday with a public installation of 857 school desks, representing the number of students who drop out of US schools every hour of every school day. More than 1.2 million students drop out of school each year, the group said.

The campaign also includes grassroots events, a website, a petition to be presented to the presidential candidates at the nominating conventions, a full-page ad in The New York Times, and a presence on both Twitter and Facebook.

Media outreach will focus on education and political reporters and others journalists at national outlets.

“Graduation rates are in decline, and we need to reverse that by not having the candidates focus on the economy and jobs alone,” said Mark Kaminsky, a partner at SS+K.

The organization is leaving the scope of education issues that need to be addressed up to the candidates. However, it hopes they will emphasize issues that help students finish a K-to-12 education and get a college degree.

This spring, education played a key role in the presidential campaigns, but both candidates have focused on other issues since then, Kauffman said.

“Traditionally, candidates give speeches about education in April or May in order to put a platform on their website, or to check some box, and then that tends to be the last your hear of it,” he said.

The budget for the campaign is still being finalized, Kauffmann said.

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