Yesterday, Republican Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney gave one of his first speeches of the campaign on education, while releasing a policy booklet on the subject titled, "A Chance for Every Child.
The Washington Post has this analysis of his proposed policies
Romney is advancing a pro-choice, pro-voucher, pro-states-rights education program that seems certain to hasten the privatization of the public education system.
In a Romney-run education world, the parents of poor and special education students would choose a school — public or private, based on standardized test scores and other data — and then a specific amount of public money would follow the child to the school.
It’s a voucher system that would, among other things, require families of the neediest children to constantly shop around for schools in an unstable market and would likely exacerbate the very thing — a chronic achievement gap — all of this is supposedly intended to fix. Obama opposes vouchers.
Romney’s education vision is based on an ideology that demonizes unions and views the market as the driver of education reform. His program is not based on quality research or best practices; indeed, it doesn't mention the one reform that has been shown over years to be effective, early childhood education.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel went even further, in pointing out that...
Romney’s education plan outlined today during his speech demonstrates a complete disdain for public schools and educators. His speech lacks a meaningful plan for parental engagement or providing what is best for students in need. There’s no mention of priorities or realities about what is actually happening in classrooms across America.
Educators also are scratching their heads about the choices that Romney made in selecting his team of education advisors, which includes former Education Secretary Rod Paige. Paige once referred to teachers, bus drivers, custodians, and other educator members of the NEA as “a terrorist organization.” His list of advisors also included a state superintendent who pushed a host of bills protested by community leaders, parents and educators because he promised to increase class sizes, reduce the teaching force, replace teachers with mandatory online classes and erode educator rights. Other advisors come straight out of think tanks which have worked to undermine public education and what works for students.
Picking someone who called teachers terrorists, does seem like a poor choice of Romney's.
Ed Week has a series of articles based upon Romney's speech and policy book
- Details of Romney's School Choice Plan Emerge
- Romney Calls for Using Title I, IDEA Funds for School Choice
- Dividing Lines: Romney and Obama on Private School Choice
But it appears Romney didn't consult with special education advocacy groups before making his pitch. While special education vouchers have grown in popularity in recent years, the number of programs is small, and the number of participants is also tiny.
Many advocacy groups warn parents against using vouchers for students with disabilities because, in doing so, they give up their rights outlined in federal education and disability laws. And they may not know that.
The accountability proposals also prompted a host of question from Sandy Kress, a lawyer in Austin, Texas, and a former White House aide who played a key role in working with Congress to craft the NCLB law during President George W. Bush's tenure.
"What would the expectations be for states and districts?" Kress wanted to know. "What would the expectations be for the money in terms of the report cards and for the responsibility for learning? What will the expectations be for the rigor of the standards and the consequences? That's unclear."
The title of Petrilli's essay sums up his view: "The Romney education plan: Replacing federal overreach on accountability with federal overreach on school choice."
Education Sector's Anne Hyslop offers a different perspective. She praises pieces of Romney's proposal but says it wrongly assumes that choice—rather than polices for turning around low-performing schools and helping struggling students—will act as a cure-all.
The takeaway seems simple, if you like the failed policies pursued by corporate education reformers, and you want more of it, Mitt Romney is your guy.