As speculation over Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick continues, Ginger Gibson of Politico notes that an education reformer would be an excellent choice. Mitt Romney is reportedlybehind President Obama with the key female demographic by double digits and despite some initial posturing has been largely silent on education. With the nation’s schools widely considered to be in crisis and global comparisons suggesting that in all matters education, the US is far from being the best country in the world, it was expected that this election cycle education debate may finally get a more prominent place.
“Education is a very important issue across-the-board but it’s particularly important among women,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “Since education is widely viewed as primarily a state rather than a federal issue, it becomes a critical way for Republican candidates to close the gender gap.”
If Romney is sidelining education at the moment because he plans to pick a VP with a strong record on education then this year he will spoiled for choice, with several Republican Governors having staked their political capital on education reform within their states.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are trash-talking teachers’ unions and pushing for education legislation with a conservative spin in the name of the poorest students.
Jindal signed a voucher program in April that allowed parents to use state aid to send their children to private schools. He also pushed through a reform of teacher tenure that would make it possible to fire teachers deemed ineffective.
Christie’s rhetoric is especially combative, having described the unions as ‘bullies’ while he worked with Teresa Ruiz on Senate Bill 1455 which addressed similar teacher tenure changes as achieved in Louisiana under Jindal. He then made it clear he was considering backing away from the resulting bill because the compromise agreement under which it was passed allowed the unions a victory on the matter of seniority based layoffs.
McDonnell has also made it clear his priority is education, both during his election campaign and his time in office. He recently signed into law and act which added Virginia to the list of states offering private school choice for its children.
It’s not just women who will find a vice presidential nominee who can talk education appealing, said GOP pollster Ed Goeas.
“The bigger factor may be with the Hispanic voters, because Hispanic voters truly see education as the key for their children doing better as Americans,” Goeas said.
For those that doubt the power of education to affect the presidential race, Ayres claims that Bush won his campaign on an education focused message backed up by his reform efforts as Texas Governor.