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.


Education News for 07-10-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Board members focus on state audit (Blade)
  • Rossford school board members want to be kept in the loop. At least one wants Superintendent Bill McFarland and Treasurer James Rossler to record their meeting this week with a representative of the Ohio auditor on the subject of a performance audit of the district. At a special meeting last week, board members Beverly Koch and Jackie Brown said they wanted the nature of the audit to be decided by the board, not the administrators. Ms. Koch also said she wanted the meeting to be recorded so board members could hear what was said. Read more...

  • Educators leery of third-grade requirement in state law (Times Reporter)
  • Area educators fear that with Ohio’s new third-grade reading guarantee, the future of 8-year-olds across the state will hinge on their performance on one test on one day. “That’s more pressure than I ever encountered in the third grade,” said Bob Fogler, superintendent of Indian Valley Local Schools in Gnadenhutten. Late last month, Gov. John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 316. The education and workforce development legislation contains a provision that would require third-graders to be held back for as long as two years if they cannot read at grade level. Read more...

  • Cincinnati Public Schools selling more schools (Enquirer)
  • CORRYVILLE — Cincinnati Public Schools Monday added four more closed school buildings assessed at $8.8 million to its for-sale list this summer. The seven-member school board unanimously voted to offer Central Fairmount, Kirby Road, North Fairmount and Old Shroder schools for sale. The properties join a previous list of five old schools and four pieces of land being sold: the old Bloom, Heberle, Linwood, Losantiville and George F. Sands schools and property in Millvale, Winton Hills, Mount Adams and East Price Hill. Read more...

Local Issues

  • What a Mechanical Performance! Bravo! (NY Times)
  • CLUTCHING their scripts, Jeannette Newton and Will Russell climb onstage for a lunchtime rehearsal of a skit that will be part of New Albany High School’s end-of-year production. On cue the actors turn stage right, waiting for their co-star to make an entrance. There is a long awkward pause until a ninth grader, Mitchell Gabel, pokes his head out from backstage. “Mr. Herman,” he says, “can you come back here?” David Herman, a sturdy-looking retired Army sergeant major turned computer-science teacher, steps backstage. Read more...

  • South-Western schools treasurer gets $16,000 raise (Dispatch)
  • After he took a pay freeze for the past three school years, South-Western schools Treasurer Hugh Garside was given a $16,000 pay raise by school board members last night. The increase, to start in August, will raise his annual base pay to $134,450, making him the third-highest-paid schools treasurer in Franklin County. According to district records, only the treasurers of Columbus and New Albany-Plain schools earned more in the 2011-12 school year. Read more...

  • Dover schools to launch new Internet teaching initiative (Times Reporter)
  • DOVER — The Dover City School District will implement a program in the 2012-13 school year that provides middle- and high-school students with access to a new wireless network using their own technology. Students at both buildings will be able to access a filtered Internet connection for educational purposes during the school day using their own laptops, netbooks, tablets or smartphones. “Social media and mobile devices have really created both a crisis and opportunity within today’s schools,” said Karie McCrate, high school principal. Read more...


  • Outsiders (Dispatch)
  • Take all the worries common to being a teenager in the United States and add a deep additional layer of anxiety — being lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual — and you have some idea why the Human Rights Campaign considered it a good idea to ask LGBT teens how they’re doing. The results aren’t surprising, but are an important reminder that, in every middle school and high school, some boys and some girls are suffering because they fear their families, friends or society won’t accept who they are. Read more...

  • Warren’s broken record of failure (Tribune Chronicle)
  • Last year, while in the first year of a three-year contract as Marietta schools superintendent, Bruce Thomas told the Warren Board of Education that his skills were better matched with Warren than Marietta. That sounded good. This year, while in the first year of a three-year contract as Warren schools superintendent, Bruce Thomas told the Lorain Board of Education that his skills were better matched with Lorain than Warren. That sounds like a broken record. Read more...

  • The Opportunity Gap (NY Times)
  • Over the past few months, writers from Charles Murray to Timothy Noah have produced alarming work on the growing bifurcation of American society. Now the eminent Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his team are coming out with research that’s more horrifying. While most studies look at inequality of outcomes among adults and help us understand how America is coming apart, Putnam’s group looked at inequality of opportunities among children. They help us understand what the country will look like in the decades ahead. Read more...

When Governors Talk Education, It's About the Economy, Stupid


Most governors are fond of talking about education—why it needs to be improved, how they're going to improve it, the consequences of not improving it, and so on.

But when governors attempt to use the bully pulpit to sell their ideas about education to the public, what are their favored rhetorical themes? A new analysis examines that question, and finds that governors overwhelmingly choose to frame education as important for economic reasons, rather than for the development of individual abilities, or as a matter of civic responsibility. And that political strategy has implications for society and its schools, the researchers say.

The analysis, published in the International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, is based on a detailed review of governors' "state of the state" addresses between 2001 and 2008. Why focus on those speeches? Because they're the most widely reported examples of gubernatorial rhetoric, and, the record shows, they typically provide an accurate roadmap of where governors' policies are headed, according to the authors.
Over the time period studied, the authors found that governors defined the importance of education in economic terms much more often—62 percent of the time—than they did in other ways.

Governors touched on the importance of education for self-realization only 27 percent of the time. And they connected education to civic responsibility just 7 percent of the time.

Repealing SB5 isn't partisan, it's personal

Yesterday, over 600 labor leaders packed the pipefitters union hall on Kinnear Road in Columbus to discuss the next phase of the repeal effort. What is becoming clearer and clearer with each passing moment is the shear scale of the opposition to SB5. It was a mid July day with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees, yet people had come together in their hundreds for a closed to the press event, whose nature might usually attract only 30.

It's not just the numbers that should cause supporters of SB5 to take stock, but the breadth of opposition. The gathering represented over 2 million members, from public and private sector unions. While much focus has been placed on the direct assault on teachers, police and fire, private sector allies have stepped up and into the fray too, to lend their considerable support.

Everyone recognizing SB5 for what it is, a direct and indirect assault on working men and women in Ohio.

As if to punctuate this huge gathering, it happened, by coincidence, on the same the day that Secretary of State John Husted certified that voters would guaranteed the opportunity to repeal SB5 in November on the back of a record breaking signature collection effort

Secretary of State Jon Husted certified a state-record 915,456 valid signatures collected by a coalition seeking to repeal the Republican-backed law that weakens collective bargaining for public employees. Only 231,147 were needed to place a referendum on the ballot.

On June 29, We Are Ohio, the coalition opposed to Senate Bill 5, delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to Husted's office for validation -- smashing the previous state record. Those signatures were shipped to their respective county boards of election for initial validation, and Husted was responsible for final certification.

In addition to cruising past the threshold for total number of valid signatures, We Are Ohio also collected signatures equal to 3 percent of the total vote cast in last year's gubernatorial election in all 88 counties -- which campaign spokesman Melissa Fazekas said was also a first in Ohio history.

The effort isn't massive because it's partisan, we see that all the time, it's massive because for millions of workers from across the political spectrum, it is personal.