The Republican Candidates' Views on Education – Should We Do Away with the Department of Education?

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.

How Rick Perry wants to reform lower education on EducationNews.org >


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.

Time.Com – Grading the GOP Candidates on Education

Associated Press – Candidates seek to limit federal role in education

Huffington Post – Republican Candidates Would Limit Federal Role in Education 

On the Issues – Politicians on Education 


A few definitions from Issues2000.org

Charter Schools
‘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
‘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.

5 replies
  1. Chris Bird
    Chris Bird says:

    Thanks for this summary, Susan. I agree it’s discouraging that more focus isn’t being given to the candidate’s plans for education. I agree with Newt most in his views and disagree most with Romney, which surprised me. Something for me to think about…

  2. Harry Conley
    Harry Conley says:

    My opinions on education, especially science educaton, are based on thirty five years of teaching science and observing and evaluating science teachers in middle and high schools. Billions of dollars have been spent on improving science education with little improvement. The reason for this result is that a large fraction of this money never reaches the teachers and students in the classroom and lab. Unless DOE redirects most of its budget directly to teachers and students it should be abolished. Class sizes should be limited to ten to fifteen students. Science should be fun by providing teachers with funds to do fun hands-on activities in lab. I am not impressed with most of the Republican candidates ideas on education. I doubt in any of them really knows what goes on in our classrooms and labs.

  3. Elaine Hamilton
    Elaine Hamilton says:

    It is clear from the views on education by the three contending Republican Candidates that only Ron Paul would be supported by educational institutions and teachers associations because he is the only one that will take the stand against “No Child Left Behind” to do away with it. As a teacher myself, I am in favor of charter schools as LONG AS THEY HAVE THE RIGHT to CHOOSE STUDENTS who are academically “making the grades”. If ANY student can attend, they you are defeating the purpose of charter schools. Students with special needs or who are not “making the grade” need to attend regular public schools where a majority of money is provided to help them achieve with an INDIVIDUALIZED program, not an “INCLUSION” class setting. These classrooms would have para professionals who can assist with their needs, which is much less expensive to tax payers than hiring 2 teachers for one crowded class, where individual needs can’t be met or the teachers concentrate on “teaching the test” on grade level that the students end up failing anyway. We already know what they DON’T know! Why not concentrate on what they DO know and build on it by giving them a self-contained classroom where their individual needs CAN be met while other students attend charter schools.

    NCLB was a Republican idea that was NEVER given the funding because of the war. Now that the war is over, put the funding back into education or do away with it! What business does the Department of Education have anyway making school decisions if they aren’t the ones who are actually IN the classrooms or who are paid the money that should actually be GOING TOWARD education to do nothing FOR education while their children go to private schools because they have the money to send them there.

    While the Republican candidates seem to all agree to charter schools, they haven’t stated how they will help the students improve test scores. As of yet, there is no proof that charter schools improve student learning. Is it because charter schools conduct lotteries to accept students, which don’t improve the real problem, which is PARENTAL SUPPORT of the education of their child! Parents who have to pay for education are supportive of the education of their children. If you give out “free vouchers” for charter schools like you do free food, housing, and financial support to parents, there will be NO improvements in education. You would spend money making sure the parents can only use the voucher for school and not other things. The money would have to go directly to the schools for certain students and those students SHOULD be dropped if their grades drop or their attendance drops. This is the ONLY way to improve the quality of education. If parents see their only way to get into a charter school is to help their child learn, they will either get involved with the education of their child OR their child will remain in the same public school.

    That opens up an issue not addressed by candidates: WELFARE REFORM and UNEMPLOYMENT! They go hand in hand. We are giving 50% of our jobs to people in other countries to do the work that people can’t do because they are not educated enough to do the job! Unless a student graduates from college, they cannot make sufficient income to support a family. Giving vouchers for ANY students will not provide quality education for students who have the potential to attend college. It all boils down to the fact that parents on welfare do not value education as much as those who are working and pass on this attitude to their children. If you take the scores for states and divide them into urban or suburban schools, you will find that the urban school scores pull the higher suburban scored down because parents in suburban schools VALUE education. Parents in URBAN schools do not always value education because they are receiving financial support from welfare and don’t see the need for it and pass this on to their children. Although this is NOT always the case, it is seen in many urban districts. If parents want their child to go to a good school, they need to get on board and make it happen for their child! It is NOT the teacher’s fault when students say, “I don’t care” and “My parents don’t care”. At least they are telling the truth, and we need to listen to the truth if we are to have a REPUBLICAN for a president next year!
    The other issue is dismissing teachers whose students do not make high test scores. Even the best teachers can’t make students learn if they are not allowed to teach on the student’s level in a 12:1:1 class, especially when some students are “included” as special education students with DISCIPLINE problems rather than DISABILITIES!. Much money has been spent to classify students with DISCIPLINE problems rather than spending it on students with DISABILITIES. Students with DISCIPLINE problems need to be sent to FUNDED alternative schools while the students with DISABILITIES are given the chance to learn without interruptions in a SELF-CONTAINED classroom where their individual needs ARE being met.

    Please consider these issues when selecting a REPUBLICAN candidate that WILL reform education! Educators just need to know your PLAN, which obviously Obama does not have!

  4. Sandip
    Sandip says:

    I just wanted to say that i really appreciated your review on the debate. Even though it did not chance my mind (im sure that was not the intent), it did however, reaffirm my belief that we do not need another Republican in office. And that our best option for this upcoming election is to reelect Obama (take a look at history before Obama). But this is just my opinion.

  5. Dipak Basu
    Dipak Basu says:

    Mitt Romney’s Position is the one that matters in regard to Republicans now…

    Romney advocated better pay for good quality teachers to improve quality of teaching. Yes, but show me the money in these days of budget cuts.

    He perpetrates English immersion in schools stressing that English should be learnt at a very young age. How young? Isn’t English taught in first grade? I would urge focus on *science* 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.

    This is good. Is it still active? Is it scaleable?

    • He supports the concept of ‘No Child left behind’.

    Focus here has been on English and Math with Science losing out. NSLB has done a great disservice to America’s leadership in scientific innovation.

    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.

    What does the teachers union which supports older and not necessarily performing teachers have to say to this?

    Romney supported the elimination of Federal Department of education and favored keeping educational reforms to the lowest level involving parents, teachers and community.


    Romney pledged to vote for a means tested school voucher program which gave the students coice to attend any public or private school of their choice.

    Will the government pay for a poor kid to go to a private school?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *