Mitt Romney wants to destroy public education in the US and get rid of the Department of Education.
I am not inventing this: you can read all about it in his education white paper entitled “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education” with a forward by Jeb Bush, no less. If you believe that destroying public education as we know it and turning our schools over to the private sector will solve its problems, then this plan is for you.
The central themes of the Romney plan are a rehash of Republican education ideas from the past thirty years. Here’s how Romney is planning to destroy public education:
1. Subsidizing parents who want to send their child to a private or religious school. Romney offers complete support for using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers, privately managed charters, for-profit online schools, and almost every other alternative to public schools.
2. Encouraging the private sector to operate schools. To cut costs, Romney encourages the proliferation of for-profit online universities. Romney’s plan says that no new money is needed because more spending on schools will not fix our problems. However, he proposes to dedicate more taxpayer money to the priorities that he favors, such as vouchers, charter schools, and online schools.
3. Putting commercial banks in charge of the federal student loan program. Romney claims that more federal aid leads to higher tuition, so he offers no new federal funding to help students crippled by debt. Instead, Romney would encourage involvement of the private sector by having commercial banks serve as the intermediary for federal student loans. Obama eliminated this approach in 2012 as too costly.
4. Holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ test scores. Romney also wants more federal money to reward states for “eliminating or reforming teacher tenure and establishing systems that focus on effectiveness in advancing student achievement.” In other words, Romney is willing to hand out money to states if they eliminate due process rights for teachers and if they pay more to teachers whose students get higher scores on standardized tests and get rid of teacher whose students do not.
5. Lowering entrance requirements for new teachers. Romney takes a strong stand against certification of teachers, the minimal state-level requirement that future teachers must pass either state or national tests to demonstrate their knowledge and skill, which he considers an unnecessary hurdle.
6. Eliminating the need to limit class size. Romney apparently believes that class size does not matter (although presumably it mattered to him when he chose a school with small classes for his own children).
7. Eliminating teachers’ rights. In the vision presented by Romney, public dollars would flow to schools that teach creationism. Anyone could teach, without passing any test of their knowledge and skills and without any professional preparation. Teachers could also be fired for any reason, without any protection of their freedom to teach.
This is all very, very scary for us public school teachers.
As if that were not enough, Diane Ravitch, writing in The New York Review of Books, notes:
Paradoxically, Romney’s campaign takes credit for the fact that Massachusetts leads the nation in reading and mathematics on the federal tests known as National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
But Romney was not responsible to the state’s academic success, which is owing to reforms that are entirely different from the ones he is now proposing for the country (my italics). Signed into law a full decade before Romney began his tenure as governor in 2003, the Massachusetts Education Reform Act involved a commitment by the state to double state funding of public education from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $2.6 billion by 2000; to provide a minimum foundation budget for every district to meet its needs, to develop strong curricula for subjects such as science, history, the arts, foreign languages, mathematics, and English; to put into effect a testing program based on the curriculum; to expand professional development for teachers; and to test would-be teachers. In the late 1990s – again, before Romney assumed office – the state added new funds for early childhood education.
Candidate Romney should explain how privatizing the way we school our children will further his goal of “restoring the promise of American education.”
Here’s what John Adams had to say about public education (with thanks again to Diane Ravitch):
“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it.. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”
Message to candidate Romney from an experienced educator: Restoring American education means supporting public schools, not destroying them.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Joeff