Obama spoke before the NEA (National Education Assocation) yesterday, at their invitation, as part of their annual convention.
Speaking as a teacher, I like ideas of his I've heard previously about hiring more teachers nationwide, paying teachers better in general and fixing the myriad wrongs of No Child Left Behind. (Personal opinion - NCLB was created with the sole purpose of destroying public education in the United States and replacing it with federally funded faith-based education via vouchers. It's almost an explicit part of the NCLB mission statement, if you read between the lines and are really paranoid.)
Obama's serious, I believe, in his educational goals. I don't think he's pandering to the teachers at all, especially because one of his big plans really pisses them off. Pisses me off, too.
What's pissing us off? Obama wants merit-based pay increases for teachers.
Why is this a problem? Because unless this is a highly-overseen program (beyond the local and even state level), with incredibly strict measures of accountability, it'll be nothing but a huge boondoggle. Allowing local districts and schools to determine who is fit to receive merit-based pay increases is simply stupid. Cronyism, nepotism and favoritism rule in our schools, folks. Schools and districts are rife with husband and wife teacher/administrative pairings, good ol' boy hiring systems, petty systems of punishment and revenge - the list is endless and sickening. Throwing more money at it won't help at all. It'll only make it worse.
What we need is really an educational revolution, from the bottom up - not the top down! But that's something too big to deal with here. Some other day.
You can check out what Obama said to the NEA here.
PS John McCain was asked to speak as well - but he declined. 'Nuff said.