Republican Candidates Aim to Regionalize Education

Republicans Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Rick Perry want to shut federal government out of education altogether, while Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich want to reduce its power, writes Kimberly Hefling at the Associated Press.

Voters care about education. Polls clearly show that. And it has had a tendency to filter into the race for the GOP ticket. When it has been brought up among Republicans, it has been focused on the general theme of limiting the federal role rather than on specific education policies.

Of course, limiting the federal government’s role in education has long been a popular argument for conservatives. And since Carter’s administration created a Cabinet-level department for education it has been a prescient issue for Republicans to limit its power.

A murmur or muttering of praise for any federal education policy has the potential to lead to accusations that a candidate supports federal overreach, said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

After Romney praised the Education Department’s “Race to the Top” program, which has had states competing for billions in grant dollars, Perry called Romney out on it during a Sept. 22 debate saying, “Being in favor of the Obama ‘Race to the Top,’ that is not conservative.”

President Barack Obama has brought education back into the center of the political world. The declaration that states could apply for waivers around many of No Child Left Behind’s requirements is testament to that. He has also advocated a jobs creation bill that included $30 billion to hire educators, despite being rejected by the Senate.

Obama will also be looking to extend his executive authority to allow potentially millions of qualified students and college graduates to consolidate their loans and accelerate a program that based payment options on income.

“The federal role in education has always been around the needs of poor and disadvantaged kids, so I’d like to see the focus on that, I’d like to see talk of accountability,”  said Margaret Spellings, who served as education secretary under Bush.