A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education
On May 23, the Romney campaign released its education policy white paper titled “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education.” If you liked the George W. Bush administration’s education reforms, you will love the Romney plan. If you think that turning the schools over to the private sector will solve their problems, then his plan will thrill you.
The central themes of the Romney plan are a rehash of Republican education ideas from the past thirty years, namely, subsidizing parents who want to send their child to a private or religious school; encouraging the private sector to operate schools; putting commercial banks in charge of the federal student loan program; holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ test scores; and lowering entrance requirements for new teachers. These policies reflect the experience of Romney’s advisers, who include half a dozen senior officials from the Bush administration and several prominent conservative academics, among them former secretary of education Rod Paige, former deputy secretary of education Bill Hansen, and John Chubb and Paul Peterson, both advocates of school choice.
Unlike George W. Bush, who had to negotiate with a Democratic Congress to pass No Child Left Behind, Romney feels no need to compromise on anything. He needs to prove to the Republican Party’s base—especially evangelicals—that he really is conservative. With this plan, he succeeds.
Romney offers full-throated support for using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers—although he avoids the word—privately managed charters, for-profit online schools, and almost every other alternative to public schools. Like Bob Dole in 1996, Romney showers his contempt on the teachers’ unions. He 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 skills—which he considers an unnecessary hurdle. He believes that class size does not matter (although it apparently mattered to him when he chose a school with small classes for his own children). Romney claims that school choice is “the civil-rights issue of our era,” a familiar theme among the current crop of education reformers, who now use it to advance their efforts to privatize public education.
When it comes to universities, Romney excoriates Obama for the rising cost of higher education. He claims that more federal aid leads to higher tuition, so he offers no new federal funding to help students burdened with debt. His plan does not mention the fact that tuition has increased in public universities (which enroll three quarters of all students) because states have reduced their investments in higher education and shifted the burden from taxpayers to students. Romney will encourage involvement of the private sector in higher education by having commercial banks again serve as the intermediary for federal student loans, an approach Obama had …