With Newt Gingrich dropping of the race for the Republican presidential nomination last week, the Presidential ballot for the coming November is mostly set. With that development comes a closer examination of both candidates’ views on the issues American voters consider a priority. Among those issues is the candidates’ plans to fix what many view as a failing American education system.
Although education reform was a large part of current administration’s legislative agenda, President Obama seems downright reluctant to trumpet his successes to garner votes. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has released hardly any education policy papers, which has led many to wonder what kind of an impact a Romney presidency would have on American schools.
Still, lack of recent guidance from the Romney camp isn’t stopping the Democrats for Education Reform, who have put together an “Education Report Card” based on views expressed by Romney over the last several years. Rather unsurprisingly, they find his education policies to be lacking.
“It will be critical to educate voters on what the likely result of a Romney administration would be on education policy for both the middle class and our most economically vulnerable,” the DFER authors write. “Nothing short of an abandonment of the issue of school reform, a rejection of bipartisanship, and a shirking of responsibility to help college students and local schools with precious federal resources at a time when their own budgets are tighter than at any time in recent history.”
It doesn’t appear that Romney is straying far from his party’s platform when it comes to education. He has gone on the record supporting standardized testing, teacher merit pay, rollback of tenure and collective bargaining and school choice. He has tentatively stated that he would consider either scaling back the U.S. Department of Education, or merging it with another department, and his views on teachers’ unions are generally negative. He did draw some criticism from the party faithful by supporting President Obama’s plan to keep the interest rates on the federal student loans from doubling from their current rate.
Romney also made waves recently when he stressed the importance of higher education and suggested that students borrow from their parents in order to finance it. The remark is particularly unfortunate in light of Romney’s support for Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposal which would decrease the number of Pell Grants awarded each year, and would allow the student loan interest rates to rise to 6.8%. Those changes are going to particularly squeeze low-income students, who are not in a position to ask their families for financial assistance. Thus, Romney’s remark could serve to highlight his weakness as a candidate: the voters’ impression that he’s too far out of touch with the problems facing regular Americans.