This Presidential election cycle is promising to be different from normal — and important to teachers in that education is shaping up to be a central issue rather than a peripheral concern. To illustrate this, Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s most recent address switched from the usual economic theme to blast the Democratic record on education reform and improvement.
“This president receives the lion’s share of funding from organized labor, and the teachers’ unions represent a massive source of funding for the Democratic Party,” Romney said. “The challenge with that is when it comes to actual reform to make schools better for our kids, they talk a good game, but they don’t do it.”
The speech carries additional weight as it indicates that Romney feels education is important enough of an issue to start pushing a positive message early, despite most of his attention still being on closing the campaign fund advantage that the Obama camp currently possess.
“If I’m president of the United States, instead of just giving lip service to improving our schools, I will actually put the kids first and the union behind in giving our kids better teachers, better options and better choices for a better future.”
Critics claim that Romney’s education speech is merely a mirror of his speeches on every other issue: a broad criticism of the Obama administration’s policies and record while offering no substantial policy alternatives of his own.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said:
“Education never came up in the Republican primary in any of the debates, or if it did, it came up almost never,” Carney said.
Carney said Obama’s education initiatives have received broad bipartisan support and that the president “looks forward to defending that record.”
Steve Peoples writing on Salon notes that Romney’s political position on education has been an evolving one. While he once supported the abolition of the Education Department he changed his mind on the issue of complete federal non-involvement in education during his time as a Presidential candidate in 2007. However his personal leanings are still clear from the way he has generally been against any policy that expands federal involvement in government and has been anti- NCLB since shortly after its inception. Perhaps most telling of all is that among his team of education policy advisers is former Education Secretary Rod Paige who, in 2004, referred to the National Education Association as a ‘terrorist organization’.
Peoples believes that Romney coming out officially against the labor unions may endanger his chances in key swing vote states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.