By Jamie Dupree, May 23, 2012
Mitt Romney today ventured into a policy arena that has received little attention in the 2012 race for the White House, that being education reform, as Romney used a speech to a Latino group in Washington, D.C. to roll out his plans for education change.
It was a big change for Romney, who other than a few forays into foreign policy and energy, has really stayed focused on economic issues. (I have covered many Romney events this year and couldn’t even remember a reference to education, though it probably has been discussed a little.)
Romney though “buried the lead” in his speech, as he focused first on economic matters, arguing that President Obama is conducting a “war on job creators.”
He then laid out his education reform ideas, taking a few jabs along the way at teachers unions, a sure-fire way to get cheers from a pro-Republican crowd.
What follows is the news release from Romney’s campaign about his education plans:
Romney presented the details of his plan, titled “Education reform that will provide a chance for every child.”
K-12: Promoting Choice And Innovation
Giving students trapped in bad schools a genuine alternative requires four things: (1) such alternatives must exist, (2) parents must receive clear information about the performance of their current school and of the alternatives, (3) students must be allowed to move to a new school, and (4) students must bring funding with them so that new schools can afford to serve them. Romney’s reforms achieve each of these objectives:
- Allow Low Income And Special Needs Students To Choose Which School To Attend. Make Title I and IDEA funds portable so that eligible students can choose which school to attend and bring funding with them. This plan will allow the student to choose from any district or public charter school, or a private school where permitted by state law, or to use funds toward a tutoring provider or digital course.
- Provide Incentives For States To Increase Choices For Parents And Develop Quality Alternatives. Require states to adopt open-enrollment policies for students receiving Title I and IDEA funds, and to eliminate caps on charter and digital schools.
- Build On The Success Of Effective Charter And Digital Schools. Amend the federal Charter School Program so that successful school management organizations can receive funding to replicate their efforts, serve more students, and take their programs to scale.
- Expand The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program To Serve As A Model For The Nation. Reverse President Obama’s efforts to eliminate this popular and effective program. Increase funding and raise caps on participation to allow more families to benefit.
K-12: Ensuring High Standards And Responsibility For Results
Currently, there is little easily-available data for parents about their children’s schools. Providing better information for parents will empower them to hold districts and states responsible for results and, when combined with increased parental choice, give them more control over their children’s education. Romney’s reforms will improve transparency and give parents the information they need:
- Reform No Child Left Behind By Emphasizing Transparency And Responsibility For Results. Replace federally-mandated school interventions with a requirement that states create straightforward public report cards that evaluate each school on its contribution to student learning.
K-12: Recruiting And Rewarding Great Teachers
A school is only as strong as its teachers, but the most promising teachers often find it difficult to reach the classroom door or receive recognition for their efforts once inside. Romney’s reforms smooth the path for talented individuals to join the profession and shape the next generation.
- Attract And Reward Great Teachers Through Increased Flexibility And Block Grants. Consolidate the numerous and overlapping federal teacher quality programs. Offer states flexible block grants if they adopt policies to advance and reward teacher quality, such as eliminating or reforming teacher tenure and establishing evaluation systems that focus on effectiveness in advancing student achievement.
- Eliminate Unnecessary Certification Requirements That Discourage New Teachers. For instance, the federal “highly qualified teacher” requirement, while well-intentioned, only serves to reinforce hurdles that prevent talented individuals from entering the teaching profession in the first place.
Higher Ed: A New Vision Of Affordable And Applicable Learning
America’s traditional community and four-year colleges are the heart of our nation’s higher education system. However, a flood of federal dollars is driving up tuition and burdening too many young Americans with substantial debt and too few opportunities. Meanwhile, other models of advanced skills training are becoming ever more important to success in the American economy, and new educational institutions will be required to fill those roles. Romney’s reforms spur the access, affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all of these challenges:
- Strengthen And Simplify The Financial Aid System. Consolidate duplicative and overly complex programs within the Department of Education. Focus the Department on giving students and families with financial need the appropriate information about completion and persistence, loan repayment rates, future earnings, and other indicators to intelligently weigh the risks and benefits of the many options available to them, rather than limiting choices through punitive regulations.
- Welcome Private Sector Participation Instead Of Pushing It Away. Reverse President Obama’s nationalization of the student loan market and welcome private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself.
- Replace Burdensome Regulation With Innovation And Competition. Encourage market entry by innovative new education models, emphasize skill attainment instead of time spent in the classroom, and support research and development. Repeal confusing and unnecessary regulations that primarily serve to drive costs higher, and replace them with common-sense reforms that ensure appropriate student outcomes.