Some analysts are saying Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to overhaul education could make things worse, in a system where experts already worry that the United State faces difficulties creating a workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century job market.
Romney argued in a Wednesday speech that a U.S. education crisis is going unchallenged because of overwhelming economic worries, and proposed a major restructuring. His “A Chance for Every Child” proposal, laid out in a white paper, includes recalculating K-12 funding formulas, and plans to reverse the Obama administration’s “nationalization of the student loan market,” loosen regulations on education financing, and encourage for-profit colleges.
But when Romney visited a West Philadelphia charter school Thursday, teachers were already critical of his plans (Politico), particularly on his assertions that class size is not a factor in student success. At the Huffington Post, David Halperin says Romney’s plans to undo Obama administration policies reforming student loans and holding for-profit colleges more accountable for waste, fraud, and abuse are more about money and pandering to donors than education.
President Barack Obama’s campaign responded to the plan by criticizing Romney’s record on education as governor of Massachusetts (AJC), and saying his proposed budget cuts don’t leave room for major education reform.
Obama, meanwhile, has placed efforts in a $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” education program (AP), funded through the 2009 stimulus, that awards states points for meeting teacher and principal performance-based standards, meeting national standards, promoting charter schools and turning around low performing schools.
But Obama’s programs have their own critics.
The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss says Romney’s proposals are not the help needed for a U.S. education system already damaged by previous presidents and by Obama. She says Obama’s programs come with a lot of money but they also come with major burdensome strings attached that make things more difficult for teachers and students. But Strauss also says Romney’s plan is worse because it amounts to a voucher system that would require the neediest families to constantly shop around in an unstable school market.
For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and the Economy.
Suggested Other Reading:
A 2012 CFR Independent Task Force Report looks at why in spite of investing more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, U.S. students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers and how this lack of preparedness threatens U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.
It was investment in education that catapulted the United States to the status of the world’s most successful economy, says CFR’s Edward Alden, and “[e]ducation, perhaps more than any other issue, captures the worries over the precarious U.S. competitive position in the world.”
With Congress continuing to debate the growing debt burden faced by U.S. college students, CFR Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich examines the recent expansion of free, online university education led by several elite institutions.
— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor