Paul Ryan Critics, Supporters Emerge After VP Announcement

It hasn’t yet been a week since Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate, and the players in the education sphere are already stepping forward to offer both support and criticism of the selection. A day after Ryan’s name was made public, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel released a statement calling Romney’s pick a way to double down on the right-wing agenda for the mega rich. In contrast, Deborah Simmons, a columnist for The Washington Times, praised Ryan for his well-rounded and balanced approach to education policy.

In his statement, Van Roekel said that Romney had an opportunity to select a running mate who would moderate his own conservative positions, but instead chose to go with someone who believes that opportunity in education, as well as in everything else, is the sole prerogative of the rich. He called Ryan’s views anti-middle class and said that his budgetary plan aims to divert more money to those on the top of the income food chain at the expense of those on the bottom.

But Van Roekel saved his hottest rhetoric for Ryan’s education policy positions — especially his views on funding for childhood education programs and programs aimed at shrinking academic achievement gaps. He also took a swipe on the controversial Ryan budget, and specifically the proposed changes to medicare.

“Ryan was the architect of the budget plan that would have gutted Medicare and converted it to a voucher program.  Ryan and Romney have shown over and over again that they are more willing to run up trillion dollar deficits to help the rich get richer while undercutting opportunity for middle class families.”

Simmons took a much more measured look at Ryan, vis-a-vis his views on education, and found that contrary to assertions made by ideologues on both side of the partisan divide, Ryan has indicated that he’s open to all education reform ideas. She criticized his opposition to efforts to regulate the for-profit college industry and said that he owed American voters an explanation for why he opposes giving the U.S. Department of Education greater oversight over for-profit schools. However, Simmons pointed out that unlike many other lawmakers, Ryan isn’t blind to the fact that it’s not just for-profit schools that demand closer scrutiny from regulators.

But for-profit colleges do not stand alone when it comes to ripping off the public, when considered in light of last week’s news about Florida State College at Jacksonville, where at least 1,300 students might have to repay Pell Grant money.

This spring, following a federal review, FSCJ began notifying more than 700 Pell Grant recipients that they were ineligible after they received the money in school year 2010-11. During further review, the school uncovered an additional 500 who should not have received the grant money.

Obama administration officials should step forward and provide a plan on how they will deal to cut down on such “scam artistry” going forward, she added.