In predictable fashion this past weekend, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested cutting and/or consolidating both the Department of Education and HUD. He was as Mitt in straight no chaser form as you could get, talking it up in front of big check writing donors who wanted a bit of the GOP nominee unplugged before they put out.
These aren’t exactly novel ideas, as Romney even talked up eliminating the Department of Education some 18 years ago in his race for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Even people who support the concepts of a federal department of education and housing can agree that ineffective programs should be cut or revamped to better meet their objectives.
But in floating these policy ideas at a private fundraiser, Romney indirectly took another swipe at working and middle class families of color. Because, let’s face it, that’s who benefits the most from these agencies.
The Department of Education, which was recreated in the Carter administration, establishes policy and coordinates federal aid for education. It also collects important data about schools and enforces civil rights laws pertaining to education. At a time when policy makers are questioning our educational competitiveness globally, is advocating the elimination of or a severely scaled back Department of Education a good idea?
And, bad enough most families can barely afford to send their kids to college. So, now you want to dismantle the agency that oversees Pell Grants and student loans?
Should the Department of Education end up on the chopping block in a Romney administration, we might not have Civil Rights Data Collection to examine what’s going on with minority student achievement. The Federal TRIO programs that assist low income, first generation college students and students with disabilities might not exist. The Head Start program that seeks to close educational disparities between poorer students and the more affluent could go away; 65% of Head Start students are children of color. Imagine what might happen if these educational programs were consolidated or sent to the states to administer in the current economic climate.
HUD, which Romney’s father was Secretary of during the Nixon administration, also serves people of color in helping to resolve housing discrimination issues. Research by HUD shows that people of color are often shown fewer housing units and are steered away from predominantly White neighborhoods when seeking housing – this federal agency seeks to remedy that problem as well as provide low and middle income people with assistance in seeking home loans. Getting rid of housing assistance in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis could spell disaster for families who are just getting their bearings in the economic recovery.
What Mitt Romney reveals at a private fundraiser is telling because he plays to an audience that presumably paid thousands of dollars each to hear him speak, and we can almost be assured that those who would be most affected by such policy proposals were not present unless they were hired as wait staff. This illustrates the tale of multiple Mitt Romneys that has been brought up throughout the campaign – the Mitt Romney that tells the public one thing and then tells his rich friends another.