Romney education claims: are exaggerations, inaccuracies a pattern?

Much as Mitt Romney’s claims about the number of jobs he created and outsourced while president and CEO of Bain Capital continue to generate skepticism, his central assertions about his education record while governor of Massachusetts raise the question about whether his at-times selective and less-than accurate credit-taking reflect a pattern.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning rated as “Half True” this statement from Romney made this month: “When I was governor, not only did test scores improve – we also narrowed the achievement gap.”

According to the fact-checking service, “State education figures over two years support Romney’s claim about learning gains, although it’s worth noting that some areas declined on his watch, such as the drop-out rate. And it’s always somewhat dubious to take a snapshot of statistics from only one or two years . . .”

It goes on, “What’s more, Romney, a single-term governor, should not get all the credit for improvement in the achievement gap, which is influenced by myriad factors. His statement is partially accurate but omits a lot of important information and overstates his impact.”

Massachusetts education leaders called on by PolitiFact were less generous in their assessment of Romney’s contribution to closing the state’s achievement gap.

“The most important point to make with Gov. Romney’s record is that the reform he initiated was part of a much larger and longer movement that existed in Massachusetts,” said Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center, an independent, nonpartisan education research organization.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, offered this pointed appraisal:

He had nothing to do with it. It’s the teachers in the classrooms who are making the difference.

What, then, are some verifiable education-related actions taken by Romney as governor?

Among them:

  • Romney proposed eliminating early literacy programs, full-day kindergarten, and class size reduction programs. [Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, March 5, 2003]
  • Romney vetoed a universal pre-kindergarten bill and “questioned the benefits of early education.” [Massachusetts Telegram and Gazette, February 2, 2007]
  • College fees soared 63% under Romney because of his cuts to higher education budget as governor. [Boston Globe, June 29, 2007]

To be sure, Romney’s education record is not all thorns and thistles. A closer look, however, reveals some worrisome facts that he won’t likely highlight in a campaign ad or speech.


Voucher welfare for big business

State Representatives Brenner, Patmon, Driehaus, Barnes, Butler, Maag, Newbold, Henne, Yuko, Young, Sears, Wachtmann, McClain, Huffman, Boose, Adams, J., Beck, Uecker, Stebelton, and Blessing have introduced HB242 which will "authorize nonrefundable tax credits for donations to nonprofit entities providing scholarships to low-income students enrolling in chartered nonpublic schools".

According to LSC the bill will;

  • Allow a nonrefundable credit against the income tax or certain business taxes for taxpayers who donate to nonprofit educational scholarship organizations that provide scholarships to lower-income students attending chartered nonpublic schools.
  • Authorize annual credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,500 for joint filers, if the individual or joint filer is not a pass-through entity owner, and up to $300,000 for other taxpayers.
  • Limit the total amount of such credits to $20 million in fiscal year 2010, and increases the credit ceiling each year by 20% over the previous year's ceiling if the previous year's ceiling is reached.
  • Prohibit credits for donations designated for a specific child.

There is nothing in the bill however the limit the institution where the money can flow to. One can easily see the scenario where a "business" donates the maximum $300,000 to a fund, and gets a full tax credit for that amount - i.e. free money - and that business donation flows right back to a specific school.

In effect this bill simply expands the pool of voucher money by another $20 million - with a provision that it can grow by an additional 20% each year after the first.

This bill is nothing more than corporate welfare for the donors and the recipient private schools. Tax payers dollars should be used to fund public schools. That is the constitutional duty of the legislature, not to dole out precious money to private enterprise.

Charter school amendments likely to be stripped

Credit where credit is due, the Governor's education Czar is also unhappy with the House Republican changes to the budget that creates a wild west charter school privatization system in Ohio.

House leaders refuse to say which legislator submitted the budget amendments. However, at least some were made at the request of major Republican donor and leading for-profit charter-school operator David L. Brennan, who runs White Hat Management in Akron.

Sommers told state board members today that school choice creates competition that will improve Ohio's education system. But both charter schools and traditional public schools alike must be accountable for student performance and public financing, and poorly performing schools must be shut down.

He also cited the need for "more transparency about funding for charter schools."

Clearly, pressure from all angles is causing some second thoughts, and hopfully the big loser in all this will be David Brennan and not pubic education and accountability.