Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called for an expansion of parental choice in America's school system. Education is fast becoming a central election issue and Romney's speech in Washington has particular impact as President Obama is seeking to end the local experiment with school vouchers.
He criticized Mr. Obama for failing to pursue deeper education reforms, saying the president has been "unable to stand up to union bosses, and unwilling to stand up for kids."
It is commonly held that the election will be decided by middle ground swing voters in key states. While education may rank behind jobs and the economy as a priority, it is likely to still be an important issue in garnering these decisive votes. Education has been coming under the spotlight due to the impact it will have on America's future economy. There are many signs that the US is falling behind global education standards and there is a significant risk of losing generations unable to compete in the global marketplace due to poor schooling. For example, 70% of eighth graders in the US fail to achieve âproficient' status in science.
"As president, I will pursue bold policy changes," said Romney. "Dramatically expanding parental choice, making schools responsible for results by giving parents access to clear and instructive information, and attracting and rewarding our best teachers – these changes can help ensure that every parent has a choice and every child has a chance."
Romney recently stole Obama's thunder on an extension of Stafford loans. While this would have been a cheap source of votes for Obama, Romney preemptively agreed with the extension on principle. How to fund the extension is still a source of acrimonious debate in Congress however.
The Romney campaign released a series of proposals with his speech, many of which focused on parental choice and control. For example, Romney proposes to give school choice to low income and special needs students by making Title I and IDEA funds portable. He will expand the District of Columbia's Opportunity Scholarship Program. Romney plans to utilize flexible block grants to attract and reward strong teachers. He will also eliminate some of the certification requirements that prevent talented individuals from entering the teaching profession. Romney aims to simplify federal aid for college finance and make sure borrowers have access to adequate transparency on costs and future earnings.
Romney also plans to offer incentives for states to increase choice although this plan is controversial within Republican circles as it is effectively similar to Obama's federal intrusion into state's education affairs which many claim is unconstitutional.