Romney’s education plan will fail students
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 14:06
Now that Mitt Romney has all but assured the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign has begun to converge on the education issue. According to The Washington Times, Romney proclaimed, “If it weren’t for the economy, education would be the most important topic in this year’s election.” Recently, Romney criticized the Democratic party, claiming, “If I’m president of the United States, instead of just giving lip service to improving our schools, I will actually put the kids first and the union behind in giving our kids better teachers, better options and better choices for a better future.” For Romney, it appears as though the biggest hindrances to the American education system are the teacher unions and President Barack Obama.
On May 23, Romney came out with his new plan to improve education. The title reads “A Chance for Every Child – Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education.” Although a hopeful title, the plan appears to center on failed policies while attacking teachers. Romney wishes to use a voucher program that would allow poor and disabled children to use federal money to leave public schools and attend private institutions. He has claimed that Obama has been bound by teacher unions and even blamed him for the rising costs of colleges, among other things.
If it were late January, or even early February, the lip service the Romney campaign has been giving regarding “teaching without policies” could be seen as normal campaign jargon. However, with elections only five months away the Romney campaign should stop the lip service and start tackling education head on.
Instead, Romney appears to be sticking with his “Chance for Every Child” plan, which has already garnered legal challenges due to the constitutionality of his voucher program. The program would give public money to private or religious schools and could be seen as a violation of the separation of church and state. He has also come under scrutiny for oddly asserting “it’s not the classroom size that’s driving the success of those school systems,” meaning class sizes do not affect a student’s success. In addition, Romney has attacked teacher unions, claiming their goals have been to “prevent parents from having a meaningful choice or children from having a real chance.”
Now, I have my own problems when it comes to teacher unions. Many times, they dominate school board races, they send far too many delegates to the Democratic National Convention and they make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. Although I do not pretend to have a loving relationship with teacher unions, the truth is they are absolutely essential to a strong educational establishment. This becomes obvious when studying the most successful education systems, such as those found in Finland and Singapore. Finland’s Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen said, “An educational system has to serve the local community, and it’s very much tied to a country’s own history and society.”
Although lacking in the boldness department, Obama has helped to improve education and it has been a strength for his administration, bringing him much bipartisan support. By reforming the No Child Left Behind Act and supporting teachers and students, he has helped make college more affordable with new student loan support. Instead of trying to demolish teacher unions as Romney has proclaimed, the goal should be to work together and make sure that they are involved in helping recruit the best possible teachers by providing incentives such as pay raises and smaller class sizes.
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