By Blog Editor Susan Wells
As the field narrows and we get closer to a front runner emerging for the Republican nomination for president, it’s important that voters do their homework and really learn about each candidate and their views. The candidates do not agree on many topics, including education.
We looked at the remaining five candidates and their views on the future of education. Two of the candidates are in favor of eliminating the Department of Education. Is this a good idea?
The U.S. Department of Education’s website states its mission “is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”
ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. ED’s 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to:
- Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.
- Collecting data on America’s schools and disseminating research.
- Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
- Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.
I think the majority of Americans will agree our education system needs repair and reform. Some of the questions being asked of the candidates include: Do we dismantle the Department of Education? Do we fire teachers whose students do not get high scores on tests? Do we encourage parents to homeschool or place their children in charter or private schools? What about children in low-income areas? Is the No Child Left Behind Act working? Let’s not forget that many, many public school districts are suffering from deep budget cuts. They are cutting school staff, staff development, materials, and teachers. Class sizes are also on the rise.
Teachers, in fear for their jobs, teach to the test and don’t always encourage free thinking and discovery. There isn’t time or money for centers, science, art or music. Teachers are forced to drop engaging and fun learning lessons in exchange for strict math and reading lessons.
What changes would you make to education? Do you agree with the candidates? All five remaining candidates’ views vary widely. Here are their views posted verbatim from 2012RepublicanCandidates.org. (Rick Perry is not listed on the website, so we used a post from Education News.)
Newt Gingrich’s Position on Education:
• Gingrich believes that high schools are now obsolete. He would make schools and teachers compete to improve education.
• He thinks that we should focus on patriotic education instead of multiculturalism.
• He thinks education is the most important factor in our future prosperity and national security.
• He insists that failing schools must change and he supports charter schools. Gingrich would provide students at hopeless schools with private school scholarships.
• He wouldn’t charge interest on student loans for science and math students.
• He would bring back school prayer with a Constitutional amendment and thinks that federal aid should go only to schools that allow voluntary.
• Gingrich has said that high school girls who graduate as virgins should be rewarded.
Ron Paul’s Position on Education:
• Ron Paul thinks that shutting down the Department of Education will improve the quality of education. He wouldn’t dismantle public schools but would encourage homeschooling and private schools with tax write-offs.
• He believes that black and hispanic colleges should not get special funding.
• Paul voted yes on vouchers for private and parochial schools.
• He would support a Constitutional amendment that allows voluntary school prayer.
Rick Perry’s Position on Education:
Governor Rick Perry believes strongly in accountability. At the forefront of his plan are the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education, and while these were initially drafted for just the state of Texas the ideas in these goals likely reflect Governor Perry’s broader vision for education improvement.
Perry’s 7 goals are: Measure teaching efficiency and effectiveness, publicly recognize and reward extraordinary teachers, split research and teaching budgets to encourage excellence in both, require evidence of teaching skill for tenure, use “results-based” contracts with students to measure quality, put state funding directly in the hands of students, and create results-based accrediting alternatives.
Perry urges all universities to use their money wisely so that costs of tuition do not continue to skyrocket. He would rather have universities invest their research money in projects that will yield a beneficial result instead of researching something for the sake of researching it. These solutions are meant to save money for use on the students and increase the effectiveness of education.
Mitt Romney’s Position on Education:
• Mitt Romney points out the underperformance of kids in the US saying that they score only in the bottom 10%- 25%. Therefore there is a need to revamp the education system.
• Education should not be confined to a teacher’s union only. There should be involvement from parents, the state, federal government with the support of the teachers.
• Romney advocated better pay for good quality teachers to improve quality of teaching.
• He perpetrates English immersion in schools stressing that English should be learnt at a very young age.
• While Governor Romney brought forth a scholarship for all kids that graduate in the top quarter of the class known as the John and Abigail Adams scholarship, which was 4 years tuition free entry to state colleges and universities.
• He supports the concept of ‘No Child left behind’.
• Romney supports setting up of charter educational institutions and conducting immediate third party audit in underperforming schools, giving authorization to principals to replace 10% of underperforming staff etc.
• Romney supported the elimination of Federal Department of education and favored keeping educational reforms t the lowest level involving parents, teachers and community.
• He was against schools inflicting specific religious practices or prayer in schools. Instead Romney stressed on teaching the importance of economics and family values.
• Romney pledged to vote for a means tested school voucher program which gave the students coice toi attend any public or private school of their choice.
**Romney says he is not for dismantling the Department of Education, although he had supported that plan several years ago.
EducationNews.org also did an article on Romney’s education views >
Rick Santorum’s Position on Education:
Despite the 2004 controversy surrounding his children and the Penn Hills School District, Santorum is perhaps better known in the education sector for his effort at including the ‘Santorum Amendment’ into the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It was an attempt at including the theory of intelligent design, alongside the theory of evolution, into the public school science syllabus. The attempt proved to be unsuccessful, but it has been largely credited as the catalyst for the decade long battle between the Creationist and the scientific community.
I was surprised at how difficult it really is to find the candidates’ specific views and plans on education. Some of their campaign websites do not provide their views on education and I have found conflicting information. Here are a few more articles on the candidates and their thoughts on the education issue.
A few definitions from Issues2000.org:
‘Charter schools’ are publicly-funded and publicly-controlled schools which are privately run. They are usually required to adhere to fewer district rules than regular public schools.
NCLB – No Child Left Behind
- NCLB is the 2001 bipartisan law intended to improve K-12 schools, under the theory of standards-based education reform.
- States are required to establish standardized testing, so that all high school graduates meet the test criteria.
- States are also required to give options (school choice) to students who attend schools that fail to meet NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
- The controversy over NCLB currently focuses on funding: Opponents of NCLB argue that states are provided inadequate federal funding for implementation of NCLB, and that therefore NCLB represents an “unfunded mandate” on states.
- Proponents of NCLB argue that the law provides accountability for schools; fights against incompetent teachers; and provides alternatives to failing schools.
- Progress is measured in the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly knows as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
‘School Choice’ generally refers to a school district allowing parents to decide which school within the district to send their kids to. The political issue is whether to allow the choice to include private schools, parochial schools, and home schooling at taxpayer expense. Taxpayer funding of parochial schools potentially violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. Taxpayer funding of private schools is controversial because it subsidizes parents who are currently paying for private schools themselves, and are usually more wealthy than the average public school family.
‘Vouchers’ are a means of implementing school choice — parents are given a ‘voucher’ by the school district, which entitles them to, say, $4,000 applicable to either public school or private school tuition. The value of the voucher is generally lower than the cost of one year of public education (which averages $5,200), so private schools (where tuition averages $8,500) may require cash payment in addition to the voucher.